There seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between Cognitive Therapy (CT) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Why? Well, sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably… and sometimes they’re not.  

So does CT = CBT? Not always. Here’s how the two are related.

Cognitive Therapy (CT) is:

  • A specific form of therapy developed by Aaron T. Beck, M.D. in the 1960s.
  • The first psychotherapy to be subjected to rigorous clinical testing (Dr. Beck established the ‘gold standard’ of scientific testing of psychotherapies, a practice which has since become widespread).
  • A form of therapy that has been widely recognized as a groundbreaking, major contribution to society.
  • Based on the cognitive model: that the way we perceive situations influences the way we think, feel and behave.
  • A treatment that targets thoughts, emotions, behaviors and physiological symptoms (if applicable) in the present for immediate change.
  • A treatment that is interactive and educational – patient and therapist work together to “test” perceptions and come up with more realistic alternatives.
  • Individualized for specific disorders and for specific patients.
  • A therapy in which therapists seek to understand their patients’ problems from a cognitive framework, and then use a variety of cognitive and behavioral techniques, as well as techniques from many modalities to bring about change in thinking, behavior and mood.
  • We recommend that patients interested in this form of treatment seek treatment from Cognitive Therapists certified by the Academy of Cognitive Therapy (which is the only Cognitive Therapy certifying body for mental health professionals from all disciplines that has a thorough review process prior to granting certification) and is based on the work of Aaron T. Beck, M.D.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is:

  • An umbrella term for a group of therapies that share some common elements.
  • A category that developed from behaviorists like Goldfried, Meichenbaum, and Mahoney.
  • A category that includes Stress Inoculation, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Problem-Solving Therapy, Response Prevention, and many, many others.
  • A category in which therapists may seek to understand patients’ problems from either a behavioral or cognitive framework.
  • A term that is sometimes used to refer directly to Cognitive Therapy (CT), especially in countries outside the U.S. (for instance, CT and CBT are used interchangeably in this counseling resource).

In other words, Cognitive Therapy does not always equal Cognitive Behavior Therapy. CT is a discrete form of therapy. And CBT is an umbrella term for a group of therapies. But sometimes people use the term CBT to refer to Cognitive Therapy.

For more information, you can also read this post to find out more about behavioral change in Cognitive Therapy.