Cognitive and behavioural therapies

Written by Katherine Nicholls
Katherine Nicholls
Counselling Directory Content Team

Last updated 12th March 2024 | Next update due 12th March 2027

Behavioural therapies are centred around understanding how we think (cognitive) and/or the way we behave. These therapeutic approaches recognise that it is possible to change, or recondition, our thoughts or behaviour to overcome specific problems.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (or ACT) is a form of behavioural analysis that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to encourage a new and more compassionate relationship with difficult experiences and increase psychological flexibility. While the therapy isn't considered a long-term treatment, it is considered helpful in the treatment of depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.

Behavioural therapy

Behavioural therapy is an action-based therapy that focuses on an individual's learnt, or conditioned, behaviour and how this can be changed. The approach assumes that if a behaviour can be learnt, then it can be unlearnt (or reconditioned) so is useful for dealing with issues such as addictions, anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)

Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) brings together ideas from both cognitive therapy and analytic psychology into one integrative model. By looking at past experiences, the therapy aims to help clients understand why they think or behave in a certain way, before helping them problem-solve and develop new ways of coping.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combines cognitive and behavioural therapies. The approach focuses on thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions, and teaches clients how each one can have an effect on the other. CBT is useful for dealing with a number of issues, including depression, anxiety and phobias.

Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy (CT), also known as cognitive restructuring, is a therapeutic approach that deals with thoughts and perceptions, and how these can affect feelings and behaviour. By reassessing negative thoughts an individual can learn more flexible, positive ways of thinking, which can ultimately affect their feelings and behaviour towards those thoughts.

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT)

Based on cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) is a type of talking therapy that looks to help those who experience emotions very intensely. It aims to help you learn how to accept and regulate these emotions so that you're able to change any behaviour that may be harmful or unhealthy. Originally created to help people with borderline personality disorder or emotionally unstable personality disorder, DBT is now used to help a number of mental health challenges.

There are many different types of therapy and what proves beneficial for one individual might not necessarily be the right fit for you. Take time to research and don't be discouraged if the first approach doesn't click. Keep pushing forward, and with the right counsellor, you'll discover the best method for you.

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