Does Cognitive Therapy = Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

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 Dr. Judith Beck’s article: Why Distinguish Between Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or this post to find out more about behavioral change in Cognitive Therapy.  


About Cognitive Behavior Therapy News | Beck Institute Blog

Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a non-profit organization founded in 1994 as an outgrowth of Dr. Aaron T. Beck’s original Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania. Today Beck Institute is an international training and resource center for health and mental health professionals, educators, and students worldwide. In addition to offering training programs at our Philadelphia location, we help create or improve cognitive behavior therapy programs at universities, hospitals, community mental health centers, health systems, and other institutions. Beck Institute also provides clinical mental health services and consultations and promotes research in the field.
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8 Responses to Does Cognitive Therapy = Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

  1. medha koirala says:

    respected sir/madam. i am going to present a case of functional dysarthria for my clinical conference. the patient developed slurring of speech after his father death,followed by property dispute. radiological findings reveal normal MRI for brain, cerebellum. neurologist have diagnosed as (?) pseudobulbar palsy. could you please tell me if CBT or CT would be helpful with this case and why..?
    thank you

  2. CT Today says:

    We think you are probably actually interested in looking for cognitive training, not Cognitive Therapy. Cognitive training is often used for memory problems, attention problems, brain functioning, etc. (what we do, Cognitive Therapy, is in the field of psychology, and probably not what you’re looking for).


  3. Barbara says:

    I have a question about Cognitive Therapy:

    I understand that it deals with current problems of people. But what do you do when a current problem seems to be linked to how someone acted e.g. towards his/her parents, or something he/she has done since being a kid?

  4. CT Today says:

    Usually we find that we can help people solve their problems and feel better by focusing on their thinking and reactions (emotional and behavioral) to current situations, without having to go into the past. Sometimes, when people report a lifetime of difficulties in relationships, in working, in managing their day to day lives, in dealing with their emotions, and so on, we find that working in the present isn’t quite enough. In that case, we not only help patients identify and modify their current beliefs (their most fundamental understandings of themselves, their worlds and other people). We also help them recognize how these beliefs developed (often in childhood), how accurate those beliefs were at the time, how these beliefs are affecting them today, and how accurate they are today. In addition to intellectual techniques (calling on their logical minds), we use a variety of emotional/experiential level strategies when dealing with childhood issues to help them change their beliefs at an “emotional” or “gut” level. We can’t change childhood experiences but we can change the meanings people put to these experiences.

  5. kisha says:

    I have a question about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

    Dr.Beck is noted for his creation of cognitive therapy, but has he also created Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

  6. Dr. Aaron T. Beck, developed Cognitive Therapy (CT), also called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Both are the same form of psychotherapy in which the therapist and the client work together as a team to identify and solve problems. Therapists use the Cognitive Model to help clients overcome their difficulties by changing their thinking, behavior, and emotional responses.

  7. Rose says:

    i would like to know if when writing an undergraduate dissertation how i can make it clear to the reader that all the evidenced i have critiqued in the the research title states CT however within the NICE 2009 recommendations it only suggests CBT.

    Does this therefore mean the same thing and the same therapy? as currently im confused in how to develop a research question whether to state CT or CBT or does it simply mean the same therapy?

    any evidence to support the confusion between terminology will be much appreciated.

    thank you, Rose

  8. Hirota says:

    I have a question about CBT.
    You said “Cognitive Therapy (CT) also called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Both are the same form of psychotherapy in which the therapist and the client work together as a team to identify and solve problems.”
    That’s mean if I found the book about CT, so that’s also mean talking about CBT? and I can change that term to CBT??
    I’m confused because you also said “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.”

    Thanks before (:

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