Cognitive Behavior & Behavior

Compare-Contrast of Cognitive Behavior and Behavior Therapy

Smilarities of CBT and BT

To understand the similarities and differences of the two therapeutic styles it is easiest to see therapeutic styles on a continuum, with Behavioral Therapy at one end and Cognitive Therapy at the other (Spiegler, 2016). Cognitive Behavior Therapy rests in the middle of the two, almost a perfect balance of two seemingly opposite therapies (Kot, 2016). Both Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy have become exceedingly popular in recent decades to assist clients in changing their thoughts, behaviors, and to teach coping skills. According to Thomas Kot (2016), a clinical psychologist, the two therapies are more alike than dissimilar with the main difference being in the therapists training. BT focuses more extensively on external stimulus whereas CBT focuses on combining thought processes with external stimulus (Corey, 2013).

A Look at Behavior Therapy

Behavior therapy focuses on helping a client understand that changing their behavior can change the consequences of their behaviors (Corey, 2013). Since its conception in the 1950s Behavior Therapy has has become complex, diverse, and far reaching treatment for a variety of problem behaviors (Corey, 2013). Some of the techniques used in Behavior Therapy are:
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis--which uses the ABC Model to change antecedents, behaviors and consequences
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation--which helps clients learn to cope with stress
  • Desensitization--both systematic and in-vivo desensitization, as well as EMDR, are used for stress, phobias, and other anxiety provoking behaviors
  • BASIC I.D. Assessment--which focuses on providing clients with a number of coping strategies for problem solving in everyday life (Herkov, 2015 & Corey, 2013).

A Look at Cognitive Behavior Therapy

CBT is an approach to therapy that is often used as an alternative to other therapies and focuses on reprogramming the way the client thinks while incorporating some BT techniques (Spiegler, 2016). All cognitive behavior therapies put a focus on cognitive processing being the determinant of behavior (Corey, 2013). Some of the techniques used in CBT are:
  • Cognitive Methods--especially when using REBT there is a strong focus on thinking, challenging, disputing, and interpreting
  • Emotive Changes--which typically occurs in REI therapies, and focuses on changing the emotions they experience to be healthier and more adaptive
  • Self-verbalization and Second-thought--which focuses on teaching clients a healthier and more adaptive way of thinking by replacing mal-adaptive thoughts with adaptive thoughts (Corey, 2013 & Spiegler, 2016)

Using CBT and BT Together

Most therapists can agree that, depending on the client, there are times when a multi-therapeutic approach must be taken (Wertheimer, 2012). This is where CBT originally started; combining behavior and cognitive therapies together to better fit client's needs (Spiegler, 2016). CBT and BT can be used together to treat a number of problems in clients, especially those that are directly affecting the client's life. In cases that cause a serious disruption to the client it may be necessary to quickly change behaviors, which BT would be best for, and later attend to the cognitive side of the behavior using CBT (Spiegler, 2016). Also depending on the severity of the anxiety, phobia, substance abuse, trauma, etc. it may be necessary to focus more on behavior while still attending to the client's thought process (Fields, 2013). This is another example of how the two therapies can be used together when it is in the best interest of the client.

As an Example: Treatment of Procrastination

Procrastination is something that everyone can relate to, whether it be procrastinating going to bed as a child, putting off a hard school assignment, or simply pushing the time limit on an RSVP. However there are times that procrastination can become disruptive, cause immense amounts of stress, and negatively impact a person's life.
Procrastination is a behavior that directly relates to a cognitive process, namely emotional avoidance (Hubbard, 2016). Due to the emotional and cognitive side of procrastination CBT is likely to be the best choice of treatment. In order to treat a client for procrastination, using CBT, the therapist and client would first need to pinpoint the behavior that is causing problems: procrastination. Then there would be investigation and analysis as to what thought processes are used to justify the procrastination (Speigler, 2016).
To overcome the procrastination a client could follow SMART. SMART is a model that focuses on a Specific plan, Measurable, Achievable and Relevant goals that are Time-bound (Hubbard, 2016). This plan would allow the client to have attainable goals that were easy to measure, encouraging the client to continue therapy, as well as have model to follow in other aspects of life where there may be problem behaviors (Speigler, 2016).



CCPS. (2014). Behavior Therapy. Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, New York, NY. Retrieved from

Hillman, K. (2014). CBT. Psychology24. Retrieved from


Corey, G. (2013). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th Ed.). Belmont, CA. Cengage Publishing.

Fields, R. (2013). Drugs in perspective. New York, NY: McGraw-Hills.

Herkov, M. (2015). About behavior therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved from

Hubbard, B. (2016). Procrastination: Getting unstuck with CBT. Retrieved from Cognitive Health Group:

Spiegler, M. (2016). Contemporary behavior therapy (6th ed). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Wertheimer, M. (2012). A brief history of psychology (5th ed.). New York NY: Taylor & Francis Group.