Comparing & Contrasting

Behavior Therapy vs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Behavior Therapy

The Basics

Behavior therapy tends to focus directly on the observable behavior that clients experience. "Anxiety disorders, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, eating and weight disorders, sexual problems, pain management, and hypertension have all been successfully treated using this approach" (Corey, 2013). The purpose behind professionals using this sort of therapy is that it is a good alternative to the psychoanalytic process since it includes direct behavior conditioning techniques.


There is a simple and common goal that therapists have for their clients by using such a method; to "increase personal choice and to create new conditions for learning" (Corey, 2013). They want their patients to be able to make active decisions on coming up with personal goals for themselves that are achievable and will benefit their process of treatment in the end.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The Basics

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of treatment that helps clients come to realization and overcome any thoughts that contribute to psychological distress they may be experiencing. This sort of therapy is a favored way to treat some patients because it encompasses anxiety, depression, phobias, and nightmares. Cognitive therapy is a special type because it actually teaches clients in a way to become their own type of therapist. Once they learn how to manage their thoughts they will be able to prevent the bad from affecting their behaviors later.


There are many goals that people try to accomplish as reasons behind using such a type of therapy. This approach is intended to help clients learn to be able to cope with anxiety or stressful situations by being able to identify that their thought processes are playing a role. Instead of letting the thoughts create self-defeating behaviors, this therapy allows each patient to realize and intervene with their own mind before that is able to happen. The primary goal of such a method is to "change the clients cognitions that (thoughts and beliefs) that maintain psychological problems" (Corey, 2013).

The Main Difference

What most people can't exactly figure out when trying to decipher between the two methods is that "the mechanism of change in an individual is both cognitive (modifying thoughts to change behaviors) and behavioral (altering external factors that lead to behavior change). In order for real change to occur you need to find the method that best suits that particular client or incorporate both together if it will suit them the best. Take procrastination for instance.. in order to change such a problem therapists would need to address the issue at hand and find out exactly why a client procrastinates before being able to treat it.

Most people who procrastinate have a high level of anxiety or worry toward the situation which is why they take longer to get something done. Those sort of people would rather wait until the last minute and take that chance then addressing what needs to be taken care of right away. A good way to manage this is to use cognitive behavioral therapy to be able to come to a realization of why this problem persists then behavioral therapy itself will be next. Once a patient knows why they are committing a certain act they can then be trained to change that behavior by developing a method to do so.


Corey, G. (2013). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.