The purpose of this paper is to examine the similarities and differences between the behavior therapy and cognitive therapy of human beings and the way human therapists apply them. It has been noted by researchers that there is a problem of differentiating between the two terms and therapists need to be aware of whether their patients are experiencing behavioral or cognitive therapy so they can apply to proper treatment plans to help their patients overcome these problems.
Cognitive therapy refers to a psychological therapy, which seeks to assist the patients to overcome their psychological difficulties and problems by identifying and changing their feelings, emotions and their thoughts about a certain situation (Hofmann, 2011). In cognitive therapy, the patients learn the skills of changing their beliefs about situations, identifying negative thoughts about situations, skills of changing their behaviors and thoughts. This is not limited to also skills of enabling them to relate well with other people in different ways (Jena, 2008). This therapy involves examining how the patient’s thoughts are distorted by a situation and how they influence the patient feelings towards worsening situation. Thoughts refer to the mental activities of an individuals and the way they generate ideas in their consciousness about a situation or a particular subject. Feelings on the other hand refer to the emotions and mental reactions that individuals have towards particular thoughts about a situation (Schacter et al., 2010).
Negative individual thoughts will create negative individual feelings towards a subject and the individual will be prone to cognitive mental sufferings due to his/her inability to change these thoughts and feelings. Cognitive therapy will therefore, begin with identifying the distorted thoughts that bring about a negative feeling to an individual about a situation and try to change these thoughts (Hawton, 1989). This is by either encouraging the activities that lead to negative thinking for the individuals’ acceptance or creation of positive thinking to encourage them and change their feelings and emotions about those situations. An example this is if individuals fail to accomplish a particular task, they think that they are useless. This leads to development of a feeling and belief that they cannot accomplish other similar tasks, which negatively influence their moods towards work, and the individuals respond negatively by avoiding such activities because they believe that they cannot accomplish them. Cognitive therapy is treated by developing individual skills to identify, intervene, and change the negative automatic individual thoughts about a situation (Clark et al, 1997). This is done through creating positive thoughts on individuals towards similar situations and developing ways to respond to such thoughts, encouraging the individuals not to avoid such activities and to conduct positive activities, which repair their moods and show them that they are not useless. Counseling and educational programs to encourage the individuals to perform their duties achieve this.
Behavioral therapy on the other hand is a type of psychological therapy that focuses on changing the negative responses or behaviors that individuals have towards certain thoughts and emotions leading to avoidance of activities (Robertson, 2010). It is focused on encouraging individuals to change their behaviors to change their feelings about situations. Behavior therapy involves the analysis of the patients’ behaviors, which causes stress, and those that have a negative impact to the patient (Dryden, 1999). Then applying the appropriate treatment techniques such as training, positive reinforcement and use of models such as acceptance and commitment therapy and behavioral activation which enables the individuals to overcome the depressions. Behavioral therapy is based on the principles of Classical conditioning and Operant conditioning (Martin & Pear, 2007). Classical conditioning involves the replacement of old undesirable stimulus that causes a negative behavior with a new stimulus that encourages positive behaviors. It is achieved by learning new responses to stimulus that gradually eliminates the old negative responses through various ways. They include systematic desensitization where the patient is guided to reduce fear and anxiety, which reduces phobia, sexual and anxiety disorders. Another one is aversion therapy, which reduces the occurrence of undesirable behaviors such as drug and substance abuse, flooding which exposes the patients to what causes fear and prevents them from making the usual responses among others (Lynch et al., 2010).
Operant conditioning on the other hand involves individual learning from the consequences of a particular individual behavior. The individual learns that there are punishment behaviors to avoid them (Flessner, 2011). It involves the modification of the patient’s behavior by consequences and is achieved through, punishments where a patient behavior is discouraged by its negative consequences. Extinction where there are no changes to responses of an action hence discouraging it, and reinforcements that encourage positive behaviors to occur more frequently (Hofmann & Smits, 2008).
There are similarities between cognitive and behavioral therapies because both are related since they deal with overcoming negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals towards a situation (Simos, 2008). They both attempt to understand human responses. They both try to bring about change in human perception through therapy.
The differences between cognitive and behavior therapy is that cognitive therapy deals with changing the negative thoughts and feelings of human beings while behavior therapy deals with changing the negative behaviors of human beings (Beck, 1995). Behavior therapy deals with observable aspects of behavior while cognitive therapy deals with unobservable state of mind. Behavior therapy focuses on changing the external and internal environmental causes of negative behavior change while cognitive therapy on mental cognition of behavior changes (Beck & Freeman, 1990).
Through research from various books and other materials, Cognitive therapy is different from behavior therapy but the two are similar in many aspects (Dobson, 2012). Behavior therapy is built upon operant conditioning and classical conditioning while cognitive therapy is built upon the cognitive and behavior theories. The limitations of the two are that none has covered completely the whole subject of changing human behavior from the mental aspects to the behavior aspect. To mitigate this, the two therapies have been merged together recently to form a cognitive behavior therapy which treats both the negative mental thoughts and feelings and the negative observable human behaviors.