Distinctive activities of cognitive-behavioral therapy. A review of the comparative psychotherapy process literature

Clin Psychol Rev. 2002 Jun;22(5):671-706. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(01)00117-9.


The present review examined the comparative psychotherapy process literature in order to identify the distinctive activities of cognitive-behavioral (CB) treatment. Six techniques and interventions were found to distinguish CB from psychodynamic-interpersonal (PI) therapy: (1) use of homework and outside-of-session activities; (2) direction of session activity; (3) teaching of skills used by patients to cope with symptoms; (4) emphasis on patients' future experiences; (5) providing patients with information about their treatment, disorder, or symptoms; and (6) an intrapersonal/cognitive (C) focus. Identifying the distinctive features of CB therapy can improve the measurement of process-outcome correlations by more accurately specifying and operationalizing the treatment-specific processes of CB treatment, help researchers differentiate between common and treatment-specific factors, and aid in development of more psychometrically sound instruments assessing adherence and competence in CB therapy. In addition, this review can improve training of CB therapists by providing a guide for clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Critical Pathways
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Personality Inventory
  • Professional-Patient Relations