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This page abstract: Describes with examples the difference between behavioural therapy, cognitive therapy and gestalt therapy.

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Versus Gestalt Therapy for eating disorders

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Written by: Gunborg Palme, certified psychologist and certified psychotherapist, teacher and tutor in psychotherapy.
First version: 22 Jul 2008. Latest revision: 13 Aug 2008.
Compare different types of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and gestalt therapy for eating disorders


Behavioural therapy assumes that mental disturbances are really learnt but aimless behaviours. This is based on research and theory in learning psychology.

Cognitive therapy studies how people think and how they interpret their experiences. It tries to help people think in a way which is more porposeful and less liable to cause mental illness.

Gestalt therapy (invented by Fritz/Frederic Perls) tries to help the patient to be more aware of oneself and the inner world. By more clearly experiencing what one wants, feels and perceives, the patient will be able to be assertive in relation to the world.

Below follows a comparison of treatment with two types of psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and gestalt therapy in eating disorders. In reality the differences is not as greatas it appears in the table. Skilful eating disorder therapists often use a combination of cognitive therapy, behavioural therapy, gestalt therapy and other therapy methods.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Gestalt Therapy
Eating regularly three to five times a day. Eating when physically hungry and stopping when satisfied.
Delaying and later stopping compensatory behavior e.g. vomiting. Increasing awareness of the experiences which lead to vomiting. Learning to endure unpleasant feelings in order to attain life's objectives e.g. freedom from eating disorders.
Investigating and changing wrong conceptions about food, slimming and appearance. Find out what the grown-up personality thinks is right in the case of slimming and looks.
Learning to see the connection between personal difficulties and wrong eating habits. Experiencing and becoming aware of how anxiety and stress lead to a need to alleviate mental pain by using food as a drug. Getting help to become curious about one's own feelings and wanting to investigate them.
Identifying problems and finding alternatives. Identifying problems and finding alternatives chosen by the individual.
Learning that selfesteem consists of more than just the figure. Knowing oneself concerning feelings, intentions and physical impressions which lead to greater self-esteem.

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