How Is Behavioral Therapy Different from Psychoanalysis?


How Is Behavioral Therapy Different from Psychoanalysis?

Nov 9, 2022

You’ve been going through some emotional trauma lately – with problems at work and at home – but you don’t know where to turn. You’re not sure if you have a mental health problem or not, but your healthcare provider has encouraged you to get a psychiatric assessment and follow-up therapy. But which kind, behavioral therapy or psychoanalysis?

What Is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy is a catch-all that encompasses treating a wide range of mental health disorders, focusing on the relationship between thoughts and behaviors. It emphasizes and boosts healthy means of communication, how to function socially, and other activities. Behavioral therapy also helps people with adaptive learning skills like hygiene, motor skills, self-sufficiency, positive behaviors in the workplace, and punctuality. It’s a kind of therapy often combined with medicine, diet, and lifestyle changes.

What Is Psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is well-defined as a group of psychological philosophies and therapeutic methods which were popularized by the work and ideas of Sigmund Freud. The primary hypothesis of psychoanalysis is the certainty that all people have unconscious desires, feelings, memories, and thoughts.

The goal of psychoanalysis therapy is to set free suppressed emotions and experiences, a concept known as making the unconscious conscious. Freud believed that it’s only through a cathartic (healing) experience that someone can be helped and cured of their illness.

Psychoanalysis uses various techniques to uncover what’s wrong and provide insight into possible solutions, including:

  • Rorschach inkblots, which are meant to be ambiguous. Instead, what a person reads into them is analyzed and can then form a starting point for diagnosis.
  • Unconscious feelings and thoughts can move to someone’s conscious mind in the form of miscues, popularly known as a Freudian slip (slip of the tongue). The idea is that people often reveal what’s on their mind by saying something they didn’t mean to say.
  • Free association is where a patient talks about whatever they’re thinking. In this case, a therapist will throw out a word or idea, and the person immediately reacts with the first word that pops into their head.
  • Freud thought dream analysis was the main road leading to the unconscious mind. This technique seeks to draw suppressed thoughts to the surface, distinguishing between manifest and latent content in someone’s dreams. 

How Behavioral Therapy Differs From Psychoanalysis

The biggest difference between the two is the body of knowledge required to practice it effectively, and the intensity of treatment. Psychoanalysis takes aim at structural changes and modifications of a person’s personality. Psychoanalysis promotes awareness of unconscious, maladaptive and habitually recurrent patterns of emotion and behavior, allowing previously unconscious aspects of the self to become integrated and promoting optimal functioning, healing and creative expression.

Behavioral therapy’s goal is to identify and help change potentially self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors. It’s based on the idea that all behaviors are learned and that behaviors can be changed. The focus of treatment is often on current problems, thoughts, and behaviors, and how to change them.

Types of behavioral therapy

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is very popular. It mixes behavioral therapy, which focuses on action patterns, with cognitive therapy, which zeroes in on thought patterns.
  • Cognitive behavioral play therapy is normally employed as a treatment for mental health illnesses in children. By observing a child at play, a specialist can acquire an understanding of what a child may or may not be comfortable expressing.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a kind of psychotherapy that features behavioral analysis executed by a mental health specialist. It’s sometimes equated with CBT, but ACT has its own unique methodology. ACT is linked to relational frame theory and focuses on mental function and human language.

Psychoanalysis requires a more rigorous academic standard of accreditation for practitioners, and focuses on the treatment of couples, families and groups; a wide range of relationship and emotional health problems; and takes an analytical approach to solving a person’s health problem.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Either behavioral therapy or psychoanalysis may help reduce emotional anguish but knowing which one to choose is difficult. Your healthcare provider or a mental health specialist is a good place to start, as their goal is to uncover why you feel the way you do – is it a medical problem or something else? – and create an effective treatment plan.

Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) is a new field of therapy that combines the perception changing and mind opening properties of ketamine with short term, often problem focused psychotherapy.  KAP is a powerful new treatment that is changing the field of mental health and Northwest Ketamine Clinics is one of the premier providers of this treatment in the Puget Sound region. 

Ultimately, deciding which therapy to undergo is your decision but should never be made in haste. Educate yourself on symptoms and diagnosis and ask what’s best for you – whether that’s psychotherapy, medicine, diet or lifestyle changes, or ketamine infusion therapy.  If you are unsure, our intake team can walk you through options and help you decide what direction is best for you.