Dr. Rae Osborn 04 Jul 2022

Psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy are two methods used to help people who are experiencing problems with their mental health. You may be wondering how is behavior therapy different than psychoanalysis. These two therapy methods are discussed and compared below.

What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is an older therapy method used to treat patients with mental illness. The focus of this method of therapy is the unconscious mind.

Who developed psychoanalysis?

The idea of psychoanalysis really began with Sigmund Freud in the 1800s. He believed that repressed thoughts gave rise to anxiety and other psychological issues that patients experienced.

How long does psychoanalysis typically take?

Psychoanalysis usually lasts at least a month but may take up to 6 weeks. The person meets with their psychoanalyst frequently during this time, from 5 to 6 meetings a week.

Psychoanalysis techniques

There are a couple of methods that are used in psychoanalysis. These are described below.

  • Interpretation and intervention: This is when the therapist interprets what they believe is going on in the patient’s unconscious mind and then talks about this with the patient.
  • Transference analysis: The therapist explores the patient’s past relationships based on how the patient interacts with the therapist. The idea is that past conflicts may be projected on the therapist in the course of the patient-therapist interaction.
  • Free association: The patient is told to discuss any thoughts that come to mind. Sometimes the therapist will say a word and the patient is asked to say whatever first comes to mind when they hear the word. This helps give insight into repressed memories.
  • Technical neutrality: The therapist retains a socially acceptable relationship with the patient and avoids including their own problems in the therapy.

Psychoanalysis examples and benefits

The therapy looks at the emotions of the patient and helps the patient to become more self-aware. This can be very helpful for people with psychological issues. Psychoanalysis is very helpful for patients who want to know what motivates them. One example is using psychoanalysis for treating depression. Individuals may learn that past experiences and memories influence their current mental state. This can help the patients make better choices to improve their lives.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

The cognitive behavioral therapy definition is that it is a method whereby a person is encouraged to look carefully at their thoughts and behaviors in order to determine incorrect thinking and behavioral responses.

Who developed cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a much newer treatment when compared to psychoanalysis. CBT was developed by Samuel Beck in the 1960s after he came to the conclusion that depression was related to mood but also linked to disorganized thought patterns.

How long does cognitive behavioral therapy typically take?

It is common for CBT to take from 3 to 5 months with patients attending meetings on a weekly basis. Cognitive behavior therapy is likely to be tailored to each patient and, thus, the length of time will vary on a case-by-case basis.

Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques

There are several cognitive behavior therapy techniques that are used in treating patients. These are listed and described below.

  • Cognitive reframing: This is learning that overreacting is not helpful and that it is best to restructure your thought patterns and have a more positive mindset.
  • Exposure therapy: This is used for those who suffer from phobias with the idea that the person can slowly overcome their fear of something through gradually being exposed to that which they are afraid of.
  • Guided discovery: In this technique, the therapist asks a person to back up their beliefs with evidence. The concept involves the patient learning to consider other people’s viewpoints. They also learn to question their own thinking patterns.
  • Keeping a journal: Writing down their thoughts is useful as a tool for patients to see what type of negative and positive thinking they have. It is a way to keep track of their CBT progress.
  • Scheduling activities: A method to avoid putting off activities is to create a schedule and stick to it. This is one way that cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety is done.
  • Role-playing: In this method, the patient and therapist can simulate a situation that causes problems for the patient in real life. It is a good way to help the patient overcome any fears that they experience in those situations.

Cognitive behavioral therapy examples and benefits

The focus of CBT is on behavior and how cognitive patterns lead to maladaptive behavior. For some patients, this is helpful and can lead to improvement.

We discuss below some examples of cognitive behavior therapy that takes place.

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy: People who have experienced trauma often need psychological help. CBT for trauma victims takes the form of exposure, cognitive reframing, and relaxation methods.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia: CBT may work better than medication because some types of medication can be addictive. CBT for insomnia focuses on behavior and thoughts that interfere with sleep.
  • Clinical depression cognitive behavioral therapy: Patients with depression and OCD can be aided by  CBT.


Psychoanalysis and CBT are both types of therapy that can help patients with mental health problems. Which method will be best for a patient depends on the problem they have and what they hope to achieve. Psychoanalysis requires a patient who wants to learn about unconscious thoughts and their past while CBT focuses more on current problematic thoughts and behaviors. A benefit of both methods is that medication is not used. This is an advantage considering that psychotropic medicine often has unpleasant side effects and is often addictive.

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About the Author:

Dr. Rae Osborn has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington. She was a tenured Associate Professor of Biology at Northwestern State University where she taught many courses for Pre-nursing and Pre-medical students. She has written extensively on medical conditions and healthy lifestyle topics, including nutrition. She is from South Africa but lived and taught in the United States for 18 years.


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