These therapies are focused on thoughts (cognition) and behaviours. They have the premise that we can change our thoughts and behaviours to help overcome specific problems such as anxiety, addiction, and phobias. Although some may appear similar, they place different emphasis on thoughts versus behaviours and in therapeutic techniques.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a form of behavioural therapy, developed in the late 1980’s, that combines the practice of acceptance with mindfulness strategies. It assumes that by acknowledging and accepting negative thoughts and feelings, we can learn to observe them passively and develop new ways to relate to them. ACT also helps individuals to become more flexible psychologically, gain a better understanding of their personal values and become more connected in the present moment.
Negative thought patterns impact many aspects of daily life, including relationships and careers. ACT uses a range of techniques to reduce the power of these thoughts and feelings, without denying their existence.
CBT is based on the concept that the way we think affects the way we behave. It allows participants to analyse and reflect on their underlying beliefs and thought patterns (often developed during childhood) and then see how these may have influenced current behaviours.
Mindfulness is a technique used by many ancient cultures that teaches people to calmly observe themselves and their surroundings in the present moment and to use this impartial information to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and understanding. Observations include noticing negative reactions to everyday situations, particularly stressful ones, with the aim of reducing or stopping those reactions over time.
Behavioural Therapy had its origins in the inception of the Behaviourism Movement popularised through the work of B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov. Some advocates still believe the workings of the human mind cannot be observed or measured. Behaviour, on the other hand, is tangible and can be measured. Any behaviour that can be learned can also be un-learned. Focusing on behaviour was thought to be more productive than analysing thought.
Today, the ideas behind Behaviourism have been incorporated into several different forms of therapy including cognitive behavioural therapy. Much more is known about the workings of the human mind and it is generally accepted that thoughts and actions work together rather than in isolation. Even so, it often still makes sense to focus on measurable behaviours more than subjective experiences.
Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) merges concepts from analytical psychology and cognitive therapy. The aim of the therapy is to help the person understand how their current patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviour have been influenced by past experiences and events. Once these patterns have been identified, the therapist and client work together to develop new, alternative coping strategies.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely used ‘talking therapies’ in the world today. It involves having regular sessions with a qualified therapist in a safe, neutral environment. CBT works by highlighting the relationship between our thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviours and how these shape our lives.
Sometimes, major life events such as trauma, illness, job-loss or changes in family structure can generate strong feelings like fear, anxiety, or anger. If these continue, we can get locked into negative thought patterns which can worsen the problem and prevent us from moving past it. CBT helps us to examine these patterns and find new, better ways of coping. Problems that can seem too big to tackle, get broken down into smaller parts making them less overwhelming to deal with.
Beck was disillusioned with the theory that the subconscious mind and childhood events drive behaviour. Instead, he concluded that our conscious thoughts, feelings and behaviour are all connected and that by identifying negative thought patterns, we can actively re-direct them and move towards more positive outcomes.
In the 1950’s, another therapist called Albert Ellis had also been working on similar theories regarding the relationship between conscious thought and behaviour. His approach was first called rational therapy (RT) which later became rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT).
Ellis’ created an ‘ABC’ framework that follows the connection between activating events, beliefs and consequences.