List of Differences Between Behavioral Therapy and Psychoanalysis (11+ Intriguing Truths)

In this brief article we will discuss the difference between Behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis by understanding what Behavioral therapy is, it’s key techniques and functions and Psychoanalysis by understanding its origins, techniques and lastly,  comparing the two types of therapies. 

What is Behavioral therapy? 

Behavioral therapy is a term that describes a broad range of techniques used to reinforce desired behaviors and eliminate unwanted ones.

Behavior Therapy is rooted in many key principles. One of them is known as behaviorism, which was created and made popular by Ivan Pavlov during his important work with dogs and bells. The school of thought believes that we learn from our surroundings, which leads to our behaviors.

In order to understand how behavioral therapy works, it’s important to know the scientific principles that contribute to it. The techniques used in this type of treatment are derived from two types of conditioning: classical and operant.

Behavior therapies include the use of hypnotherapy, behavior therapy, and psychotherapy. These types of treatment have been found to be useful for treating serious issues such as eating disorders, addiction and anxiety, insomnia, compulsive disorders and schizophrenia. They can also help with depression, bipolar disorder and personality disorders.

Classical conditioning

Classical conditioning involves associating one stimulus with another. This happens when a person is repeatedly presented with the first stimulus along with and unconditioned stimulus that causes a reflexive response. After this process occurs enough times, the person will eventually form an association and respond to the second stimulus even if it’s presented alone.

Major techniques under classical conditioning Behavioral therapy 

  • Aversion therapy: This process involves pairings. Pairings will provide an undesirable behavior with an aversive stimulus, which is the hope that it will eventually be reduced because the pairing’s perceived value is lowered and therefore your customer would assume less of a hassle if they were to return to the company.
  • Flooding: Imaginal exposure involves exposing someone to their phobias, often through imagination. Imaginal exposure was first developed as an alternative behavioral therapy to treat phobias by Dr. Samuel McLean, who developed the technique while working with military personnel during World War II. While running his private practice, he noted that some patients had experienced a lessening of fear after having imagined the feared object or situation.

Operant conditioning 

Operant conditioning focuses on how reinforcement and punishment can be utilized to either increase or decrease the frequency of a behavior. Behaviors followed by desirable consequences are more likely to occur again in the future, while those followed by negative consequences become less likely to occur. This is an especially useful theory when applied to business environments.

Major techniques under Operant Conditioning

Contingency management: This approach uses a formal written contract between a client and a therapist (for example) that outlines behavior-change goals, reinforcements, rewards, and penalties. This can be particularly effective for kids who have trouble remembering the details of the contract or keeping with the terms as arranged.

Extinction: Another way to make people change the behavior is by reinforcing other behaviors. An example of this would be with time-outs. Rewarding other behavior, may lead you to have a more positive effect than punishing negative or unwanted behaviors.

What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as:

A therapeutic method, originated by Sigmund Freud, for treating mental disorders by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the patient’s mind and bringing repressed fears and conflicts into the conscious mind, using techniques such as dream interpretation and free association. Also: a system of psychological theory is associated with this method.

On the other hand, psychoanalysis is a slow, difficult process that can take years to complete. Drawing out all of a client’s latent content can be a lengthy task, and the client always ends up resisting in some manner! The purpose of psychoanalysis is to get the unconscious world into the light and of a client in order for him or her to examine his or her role in prolonging a series of psychological symptoms.

Techniques in psychoanalysis 

  • Free association: Psychoanalytic theory is a concept that many people misconstrue, often mistaking it for being synonymous with ‘free association’. In psychoanalytic treatments, the rule is indeed to allow the patient to freely express themselves in as much detail as possible (without being interrupted) in order to experiment and observe their own patterns and doubts. This means that there’s rarely any kind of conversation or lecture from the analyst, but instead an equal distance between both parties of the treatment call where everyone tries to make sense out of each other’s words and meanings.
  • Transference: Patients tend to transfer their feelings about other people onto their analysts. This framing downplays the interpersonal aspect of psychoanalysis. It refers to the phenomenon in which patients unconsciously direct feelings about someone else onto their therapist. It can help your psychoanalyst understand how you interact with others.

Key differences between Behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis 

  • Basic difference between behavior therapy and psychoanalysis: In behavior therapy, patients are rewarded or punished for the right or wrong answers. Behaviorist’s use applied learning to train clients to unlearn the behavioral patterns that contribute to, or result from their problems by focussing on how they can earn more satisfaction and rewards through their own actions. Becoming aware of this process can yield beneficial results in the sense that certain undesirable behaviors will no longer be reinforced while others are learned instead.
  • The psychoanalyst primarily employs the technique of “free association,” rather than procedures aimed at behavioral change, because it is based on the belief (now widely questioned by other approaches) that genuine “cure” occurs only when the patient “discovers” previously “hidden” aspects of the “unconscious”.
  • On the other hand, behavioral therapists implement therapeutic techniques whose objective is to change the behaviors, thoughts and emotions that cause suffering to the patient. In other words, the patient’s problem is addressed directly.
  • In psychoanalysis, the goal is mainly to interact with the feelings that are the genesis of the emotions that sabotage relationships and mess with the growth of marriage and potentially endanger the performance of one’s job. Behavioral Therapy is a linear approach focused on logical analysis that is mechanistic.
  • There appears to be a sharp contrast between how therapeutic goals are arrived at in psychoanalytic therapy and how they are arrived at in behavior therapy. 
  • The logical positivist position is that behavior therapy is scientifically based and, presumably, value free. This attitude toward goal setting can also be viewed as related to behavior therapy’s democratic and humanistic ideological underpinnings as compared to psychoanalysis.
  • Clients come to believe (as do, in fact, some psychoana- lytic therapists) that insight and interpretations inevitably lead to change. There  is the possibility of confusion between responsible action and neurotic be- havior, in which positive, growth-enhancing, mastery relined action is mistakenly viewed as similar to unreflective, feeling-avoidant acting out.
  • The behavior therapist takes an objective and rational stance toward the client’s complaints and urges that the client do likewise. 
  • Psychoanalytic therapists, by contrast, place much higher value on the client’s subjective and irrational views. Rather, they would try to help the client expose the roots of his irrationality in childhood experiences, which typically reveal the climate that necessitated the client’s maladaptive outlook and behavior.
  • In psychodynamic therapy, the individual is mostly left alone. While the therapist will guide certain exercises it is still mostly up to the client to open him or herself up and to communicate their problems in a purely honest and emotional manner. The psychoanalyst will respond via feedback, but otherwise offer no outside input to help guide or direct the client in any way whatsoever. This approach discourages conformity in that it does not follow an authoritative model. What is related above about psychotherapy can easily be applied to forms of psychoanalytic therapy.
  • Traditionally, behavior therapists have paid much less attention to the therapeutic  relationship than  they have to the application of behavioral techniques.
  • The traditional stance of psychoanalytic therapists such as Fenichel, Hartmann, Rappaport,  and  most recently Brenner (1979) has been to emphasize technical and personal  neutrality, the notion of the therapist as a blank screen or mirror reflecting only what is shown to him or her.

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