How Is Behavior Therapy Different From Psychoanalysis?

Last Update on March 5, 2021 : Published on March 6, 2021

Must have heard about a number of behavior therapies, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy while searching for mental health help? In that scenario, the term Psychoanalysis also brushes aside. However, such terms and their content leave us confused and we end up thinking, ‘Which therapy is best for me?

Understanding the swirling thoughts, we would give you an insight about how is behavior therapy different from psychoanalysis and in which cases you can refer to a particular one.

The Concept Of Behavior Therapy

Concept Of Behavior Therapy
Image source: Wikipedia

Behavioral therapy is also called as behavioral modification and works on the behavioral action of an individual to sort problems. It is not to be confused with therapies that give insight of a person as they are focused on modifying behaviors while noting thoughts and feelings in the environment.

Behavior therapy is used to treat a number of disorders and addictions like:

Later, U.S. psychologist B.F. Skinner studied operant conditioning in the 1930s where he found that behaviors could gradually change as per the conditions. If someone knows that they will find a positive response, the behavior will be most likely on the positive side. Whereas negative outcomes are aligned with negative actions.History: If we look into the past of Behavior therapy, it was introduced by Russain psychologist, Ivan Pavlov, in between the 1920s and 1930s. His study focused on classical conditioning where two stimuli are connected to find a new response. One of the famous experiments by Pavlov included a method where dogs salivate as soon as the bell rings. This showed that dogs showed a particular response as soon as the bell rang.

Components Of Behavior Therapy

The Concept Of Psychoanalysis
Image source: PositivePsychology

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): The therapist tries to find out unhealthy thoughts patterns that a person is going through and what is the impact of these thoughts on a person. Once understood, the therapist tries to help the person replacing their negative thoughts and imbibe healthier ones back in life.

2. Aversion Therapy: Aversion therapy is meant to provide a person dealing with addiction or any other unwanted habit which disrupts the lifestyle. Behaviors like alcoholism, gaming, violence, anger, smoking, gambling, self injuries, etc. could be reverted with this behavior therapy.

3. Dialectical Therapy (DBT): DBT is meant to structure the immediate environment, enhance motivation and capabilities. This therapy works most appropriately with patients dealing with borderline personality disorder.

4. Systematic Desensitization: A type of gradual exposure therapy, it mainly focuses on gradual exposure to the fear while also maintaining relaxation, safety and calm.

The Concept Of Psychoanalysis

In order to understand the difference between psychoanalysis and behavior therapy, it’s time to undergo the concept of psychoanalysis.

As explained by Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis is meant to bring unconscious content of an individual into consciousness. The therapist usually asks the patient to lie down on the couch and tries to get into the vision. Now the techniques are used to find reasons for trouble like traumas, childhood instances, or something which keeps bothering a person without him knowing actively.

Psychoanalysis is used to treat conditions like:

History: Also considered as the first form of psychotherapy, many other theorists like Carl Jung, Anna Freud and Erik Erikson worked on the same section for quite a long time. Human development was taken into consideration while stressing the growth throughout the lifecycle.

Strategies Of Psychoanalysis

1. Free Association: In this strategy, the therapist reads a list of words and the person is required to answer anything that comes to their mind. It helps the therapist to go through the memories stored in the unconscious mind.

2. Interpretation of Dreams: Freud believed that dreams act as a doorway to get into the unconscious state and understand what happened in the previous stages. He also believed that dreams also have sexual meaning hidden within them.

3. Transference Analysis: This therapy is meant to ‘transfer’ the feelings of a person towards a key figure, be it from their past or present. It helps in bridging the gap between unconscious and conscious in a better manner.

Key Takeaways

    • Time Duration Of Therapy: Behavior therapies are much shorter than psychoanalysis. People going for psychoanalysis meet their therapists more than twice a week rather than behavior therapy which requires appointments to be made for once a week.
    • Difference In Opinion: Behavioral therapists do not believe in diving back in the past where psychoanalysts believe in finding solutions of repressed emotions.


Now one must consider all the points mentioned above which describe how is behavior therapy different from psychoanalysis. Thankfully, Online therapies are open to provide you all the support and assistance you need. To connect with a therapist, email us a message at and get the counseling and therapies inlined.

About The Author

Akanksha Soni

Akanksha is an active lifestyle blogger and writer at Calmsage. She has learnt various lessons on happiness and methods to fight depression through 'Gurus' as well as own experiences. An ardent practitioner of Yoga and meditation, she keeps traveling, writes and interacts with people to feel alive.

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