Behaviour Therapy And Psychoanalysis are two different methods of dealing with the symptoms of anxiety disorders, depression and obsessive thoughts. They can differ in goals, methods and strategies. 

Both the therapies were developed within separate, contrasting and distinct scientific traditions. Mental and emotional problems vary and there are different approaches to treat them. There are hundreds of forms of therapies that are used to alleviate the distress of people suffering from mental health problems. 

How do you know what kind of care or therapy you need? Are you confused about what to choose between behaviour therapy and psychoanalysis for you? 

Then, It is crucial to know the difference between behaviour therapy and psychoanalysis! So, before you choose therapy for you, make sure to know the difference between the two.

Read on to find out more about behaviour therapy and psychoanalysis! 

Also read: Emotion-Focused Therapy


Let’s get to the introduction of the two therapies one by one! 

Behaviour Therapy 

Behaviour Therapy
Behaviour Therapy

Behaviour therapy is a kind of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps the patient to identify and alter the destructive and disturbing thoughts that put a negative impact on one’s life. It attempts to alter the habitual response to the events which might have a negative influence on the patient’s life. 

It is helpful for people diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder as it mainly focuses on the acceptance of the individual’s actions and situations that teaches the patient the skills to improve interpersonal abilities. It is the only therapy that is marked as a success for patients who suffer from borderline personality disorder. 

The duration usually varies according to the severity of the patient’s symptoms. The expected period is about 12 months.

Psychoanalysis Therapy 

Psychoanalysis Therapy
Psychoanalysis Therapy

Psychoanalysis is an old and popular therapy for treating depression, anxiety and obsessive thoughts. In this therapy, the patient usually lies on the couch and has an in-depth talk with their therapist.

It consists of theories and therapeutic methods that are inspired by the belief that people have thoughts, feelings, dreams or emotions which are unconscious and can be brought up or make the patient aware of their unconscious mind. 

The therapists use techniques like free association, transference, interpretation and dream analysis to disclose the unconscious experiences which are hidden from the patient’s mind. 

Psychoanalysis is a long process. It usually lasts for years and involves two or more sessions a week. 

Also read: Types of Psychological Therapy

The difference between the meaning of the two is that behaviour therapy involves focusing on actions and situations that can be seen, psychoanalysis focuses on unseen desires, emotions, feelings and experiences. 

Strategies Involved in Behaviour Therapy and Psychoanalysis

Behaviour Therapy and Psychoanalysis
Behaviour Therapy and Psychoanalysis

Behaviour therapy and psychoanalysis, both have different strategies to help the patient cope with the mental difficulties they are facing. Let’s look into those strategies: 

Behaviour Therapy 

  • Identifying Negative Thoughts

The first step in this type of therapy is to learn how thoughts, feelings and situations may cause negative behaviour in the individual. It is an essential part of behaviour therapy. 

  • Practising New Skills

It is important to understand and put them to use in the real world. The therapist helps and encourages the patient to start practising the newly learned skills. 

  • Setting Goals

Setting goals can be a prominent step in recovering from mental illness. The therapist may help you with goal setting by teaching you how to identify your goals and staying close to them. 

  • Problem Solving

Problem-solving skills are important to help you from the problems both big or small and reduce the negative impact of psychological and physical illness. 

  • Self Monitoring 

It involves tracking behaviours, symptoms or experiences over time and discussing them with the therapist. This may help the therapist with the information required for the best treatment. 

  • Progress 

Behaviour therapy is a slow process and helps the individual take gradual steps towards a behaviour change. The progress seems less daunting and goals easier to achieve. 

Also read: Women’s Mental Health Issues & Statistics

Psychoanalysis Therapy 

Psychoanalysis Therapy
Psychoanalysis Therapy
  • Free Association

This technique involves the patient to talk about whatever comes to their mind without altering the flow of memories, experiences or ideas. There is no judgment from the therapist.

  • Dream Interpretation

Freud believed that dreams are a gateway to the unconscious mind and it acts as a medium for individuals to convey unconscious desires and feelings that are too frightening to bring into the conscious life. 

  • Transference

Transference means the way the patient may transfer thoughts or feelings linked to the prominent part or people of their lives, it may be a parent or sibling. This may help the individual become conscious of how past relationships could impact the present choices, problems or emotions.   

  • Interpretation 

It involves your therapist staying quiet and allowing you to talk freely. They may occasionally interject with the thoughts or interpretations you share with them. While doing so, they may closely analyse them. They look for some common themes or patterns in the patient’s stories.

Behaviour therapy and psychoanalysis both share the same goals of reducing the psychological symptoms and improving the quality of life. Here are some concluding differences between the two:


Behaviour therapy believes that a person’s emotional and mental instability is triggered by the thoughts and ideas they currently have and not on past experiences. 

Psychoanalysis is based on the belief that repressed emotions in the unconscious mind trigger mental health relapse. The solution to this is to bring up those unconscious thoughts and feelings to the light. 


Behaviour therapy is concerned with something that can be quantified and measured. On the other hand, the approach is to access repressed thoughts, feelings and memories releasing associated pain. 

Time Period 

The time frame differs between behaviour therapy and psychoanalysis. Behaviour therapy involves briefer sessions, most behaviour therapy lasts for only five sessions. Psychoanalysis therapy patients often see their therapist two or more times a week for years, it is a long term therapy course. 

This was all about behaviour therapy vs psychoanalysis therapy. Both of these may share the same goals but the time frame, belief and approach may differ. 

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