Behavioral or Cognitive Behavioral?

Which is right for you, or should they be used together?

Behavioral Therapy

This type of therapy focuses on observable behavior (Corey, 2013). Behavioral therapists will observe clients, and talk with clients, to determine which behaviors are needed to be changed. Therapists will then start the process of conditioning; be it classical or operant conditioning that is used. Classical conditioning is where a natural response is paired with an otherwise neutral stimulus to create the change in behavior ("Classical conditioning., 2001). Operant conditioning is the change in behavior occurs after consequences follow the actions (Corey, 2013). The consequences will have either a negative reinforcement or positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is something that becomes an "addition of something valuable to the individual"; and example would be attention or money (Corey, 2013, p. 256). Negative reinforcement "involves the escape from or avoidance of the adversive (unpleasant) stimuli" (p. 256). The goal of behavioral therapy is to extinguish, or lessen, any unwanted, unconditioned responses to certain stimuli.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) operates on the assumption that our behaviors are the result of how we think and feel (Corey, 2013). CBT "works to change dysfunctional, ingrained thought patterns that lead to dysfunctional behaviors" (Ford-Martin & Lerner, 2012, p. 354). Just like behavioral therapy, CBT does not focus on one's past (Corey, 2013). It focuses on the thoughts and feelings creating the behavior, but does not explore past experiences--only the ones in the "now". By being able to change these thoughts, it changes the actions, which changes the feelings about ourselves. CBT calls for self-examination in order to figure out what thoughts are happening when the maladaptive behavior occurs. The short-coming of this approach (as with behavioral therapy) is that if an individual believes the answers lie in the past, or wish to explore dreams, this approach to changing behavior will not do that. CBT requires that the client and therapist set small, achievable goals in order to help shift the negative thoughts and feelings the client has about their self to a more positive inner-tone.
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Therapies Working Together

Both therapies wish to allow for an individual to "increase personal choice and create new conditions for learning" (Corey, 2013, p. 252). Since assessment and treatments run hand-in-hand during these therapy sessions, the individual has an active role in designing their treatment plan (Corey, 2013). Cognitive behavioral therapy, unlike behavior therapy, also focuses on changing the thought process to institute the change in behavior allowing for a change in feelings, instead of just conditioning a new or lessened behavior without addressing the feelings that also come along with it.

When these therapies are used in conjunction with one another it can create a very good foundation for behavioral change allowing for flexibility and versatility in treatments. Multimodal therapy is an example of combined therapy. These therapists borrow techniques used in a variety of problems (Corey, 2013). The assumption of this approach is that individuals have many problems that require a multitude of techniques to treat.

However, there are certain times when these therapies can be used separately. Behavioral therapy might be used to break bad habits, and is frequently used in training dogs for that purpose. Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to change irrational thoughts, and if someone comes in with low self-esteem, this therapy might be all that is needed to change the thought process alone.


As an example, it may be best to use the combination therapy of both cognitive behavioral and behavioral to treat someone with procrastination problems--we will use homework reading. The individual would come in and the the therapist would begin to ask question about what were they thinking about when they were supposed to sit down and read but kept finding things to do so they couldn't. The therapist would also ask them how they felt towards the reading and/or whatever chores they felt "had" to be done first. The client and therapist would then work out a system of action. Maybe the client is to read for 20-30 minutes at a time with never having a rest time in between readings over 15 minutes, at least three or four times in a block. If they complete this, then they can reward their self with maybe a snack and play time on electronic for a half-hour. When the reading is complete and the questions are answered, the reward of having read the material will hopefully reflect in the grade received, again rewarding the individual and making them feel good about having read. This institutes the changing the way a person thinks and feels combined with the positive reinforcement needed for conditioning to change the unwanted behavior.