They both aim to assist clients with negative thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, but there are four key differences between insight and behavior therapy.
Learn the definitions and differences between these therapies in this lesson.
What Are Insight and Behavior Therapies?
Vicky is in her twenties and has difficulty in romantic relationships. She has a negative self-esteem and considers herself worthless, which makes her unable to love herself.
When she enters romantic relationships, she desperately clings onto the men, hoping they will stay and love her. Should Vicky seek an insight therapist or a behavior therapist?
Insight therapy is a form of therapy that helps clients gain insight, or awareness, into the reasons for their negative feelings or destructive thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. Insight therapy operates on the belief that when clients gain this insight, they can begin to make positive changes in their beliefs, thoughts and attitudes.An insight therapist might attempt to get to the root of Vicky’s insecurities so that Vicky could gain insight, or awareness, as to the reason for her low self-esteem. Perhaps the cause is that Vicky’s mother was emotionally and physically abusive during Vicky’s childhood. If Vicky were to gain an understanding of this, she could begin to make changes in modifying her attitudes and beliefs about herself.
Behavior therapy is a form of therapy that helps clients eliminate destructive behaviors that cause negative feelings, and instead cultivate healthy behaviors that lead to happiness and satisfaction. Behavior therapists might use techniques, such as positive reinforcement, to encourage healthy behaviors with their clients, and punishment or extinction methods to decrease or stop negative behaviors.A behavior therapist might try to identify Vicky’s destructive behaviors that scare men away, such as calling them several times in an hour, or telling them that she loves them too early in the relationship. The behavioral therapist might work with Vicky to change these behaviors so that she can have longer-lasting relationships.
Differences Between Insight and Behavior Therapies
While insight and behavior therapy both attempt to change their client’s destructive thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behavior, there are some obvious dissimilarities between these two types of therapy.
Interest in the Root of the Problem
In insight therapy, the therapist is very interested in getting the root of the client’s problem and understanding why they behave and feel certain ways.The behavior therapist, on the other hand, is not so interested in why a client behaves a certain way and doesn’t spend therapeutic time trying to figure it out. Instead, they jump right into the identification of a client’s destructive behaviors and set goals of how to decrease or eradicate these behaviors.
Therapeutic Time Frame
Insight therapy is typically more long-term than behavior therapy. In insight therapy, the therapist first spends time establishing a relationship and rapport with the client to establish trust and goodwill. Then the therapist works with the client to explore the client’s troubled past so that they can unveil the roots of the client’s problems. This helps clients realize, or gain insight, into any unresolved conflicts from the past that are currently negatively affecting their mood and thoughts.Behavior therapy is considered more short-term than insight therapy.
The therapist typically will not spend time delving into a client’s troubled childhood, for example, but instead focuses on techniques to change a client’s’ destructive behaviors.
In behavior therapy, success is determined by whether a client can replace maladaptive behaviors with more helpful ones. The fact that behaviors are tangible makes behavior therapy very easy to measure in terms of whether it was successful with a client. For example, a behavior therapy case of a client who wants to stop smoking cigarettes can be considered successful if the client went from 10 cigarettes a day to 0.The success of insight therapy is a little harder to measure. Successful insight therapy means that the client has gained awareness of why they feel or behave in certain ways.
This can be measured by a client satisfaction survey or self-report interview, but the answers given by clients in these reports can just be indicative of a great client-counselor relationship and not whether they actually gained the insight that they were intended to gain.Due to behavior therapy’s greater ease in measurement and determining success, it tends to be a more popular therapeutic framework in the mental health care system because insurance companies want to see tangible results regarding the improvement of their patients and clients.
Both insight and behavior therapies help clients with damaging thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. Yet, their approaches are very different. Insight therapy is a form of therapy that helps clients gain insight, or awareness, into the reasons for their negative feelings or destructive thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. Behavior therapy is a form of therapy that helps clients eliminate destructive behaviors that cause negative feelings, and instead cultivate healthy behaviors that lead to happiness and satisfaction.
This lesson reviewed four primary differences in the therapeutic frameworks of insight and behavior therapies. First, behavior therapy is directive in that the therapist teaches and guides the client in how to think, behave and feel. Insight therapy, on the other hand, is non-directive. Secondly, insight therapists are interested in the root of the problem versus behavior therapists who are not. Thirdly, insight therapy tends to be more long-term in nature versus behavior therapy which aims to solve problems on a more short-term basis.
Lastly, the success of behavior therapy is more easily measured versus that of insight therapy.