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How Does Cognitive Therapy Differ From Applied Behavior Therapy?

Image of a therapy session for our FAQ How Does Cognitive Therapy Differ From Applied Behavior Therapy?

With different therapies now available for behavioral programs, a common question is how cognitive therapy differs from applied behavior therapy. Cognitive and applied behavior therapy are both highly-recognized methods of therapy used to treat patients with behavior problems and patients with autism spectrum disorder. Choosing the right kind of therapy can often be difficult, especially if the individual or the family is unfamiliar with each method. Here is an overview of both cognitive therapy and applied behavior therapy.

What is Cognitive Therapy?

Cognitive therapy is a type of treatment that focuses on helping patients achieve a specific goal, such as:

• The way they feel

• The way they think

• The way they act

• How they deal with medical or physical problems

Many patients who suffer from depression, anxiety or behavioral problems have these issues from something that may have happened when they were growing up or at some point in their lives. Cognitive therapy focuses a lot on why the patient feels a certain way and then on getting the person to change his or her feelings.

What is Applied Behavior Therapy?

Applied behavior therapy, unlike cognitive therapy, focuses on the positive reinforcement and reward system. It can be used to improve certain behaviors, such as communication, social skills, and academics. It’s also used to help the patient develop learning skills like fine motor dexterity, domestic capabilities, grooming, hygiene and competence at work. Applied behavior therapy is used in various settings, including homes, work, schools and medical facilities.

The main focus of applied behavior therapy is to reward positive behavior and ignore negative behavior until the patient eventually recognizes the benefits of positive behavior. Psychology Today states that applied behavior therapy is so successful because it’s based on proven theories of behavior and learning.

How Cognitive and Applied Behavior Therapy Differ?

Although cognitive and applied behavior therapy is often used for the same problem, their methods are quite different. Cognitive behavior therapy helps the patient change how he or she looks at him or herself. For instance, if a patient sees a friend, and the friend fails to say hello for whatever reason, the patient may believe this occurs because the friend doesn’t like the person or that the person is worthless. Cognitive behavior therapy helps the person to change that belief and have a positive outlook. It also looks further into the patient’s background to find reasons why the individual feels so negative and worthless.

Applied behavior therapy is more of an immediate conditioning to bring about positive change. Applied behavior therapy uses a reward system and tries to ignore negative behavior. If the therapist asks the patient to throw the ball, and the patient fails to throw the ball, the refusal gets ignored. The therapist continues to give the patient the same command until the patient complies.

Once the patient throws the ball, the patient is praised for his or her positive response. The patient continues to get a reward each time he or she performs a certain activity when asked. There are some conditions where a patient will benefit from both cognitive and applied behavior therapy, according to the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. These include autism, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental health problems.

Getting the right therapy can result in a quicker and more effective treatment plan. Regardless of the mental, emotional or behavioral problem, it’s important to know vital details, such as how cognitive therapy differs from applied behavior therapy and which would be more effective.

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