CBT, Interpersonal therapy, and Health coaching, an interesting approach to therapy, By Joyce Hull LMSW

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal therapy (IT) are two common approaches to treat mental health aliments such as depression.  CBT focuses on negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions.  Education and homework are important steps in the CBT therapeutic process with the focus on thoughts and behaviors.  Clients are encouraged to note their thought patterns to understand the “thought – action – feeling” cycle.

Interpersonal therapy delves into an individual’s social relationships and how to improve them; thus taking note of current relationships and evaluating the health of these relationships.  The IT approach seeks to improve a person’s relationship skills, communication skills, expression of emotions, and assertiveness.

Both of these approaches emphasize the importance of the client being actively involved in their own recovery.  In comparison to these two therapeutic techniques, Behavioral health coaching places the client in the driver’s seat and allows the client to identify the reasons and motivation for altering negative thinking and behaviors. The coach provides the necessary tools individuals need to make changes and improve their quality of life. These tools include Motivational Interviewing and the Transtheoretical Model. Behavioral health coaching’s foundation is strength-based, because it supports client strengths rather than deficits.

CBT and IT are both centered on the development of intrinsic motivation to change. An important theory regarding human development, Humanistic psychology, suggests human beings are innately designed to grow and develop.  Self-determination theory also promotes the idea that people are more likely to change when they are intrinsically motivated, and provided with autonomy in their choice to make a change in the first place.  Thus, it appears to be beneficial to “get out of the expert role” as the therapist so that the client stops looking to the therapist to “fix the problem” and takes on the responsibility to make behavioral changes they desire.  In this role, the client directs the behaviors that need to change and the reasons and benefits of the outcomes for that change.  Of course, each situation is different, and it is critical to have a licensed therapist providing the coaching/therapy.  Especially when symptoms are severe and hospitalization may become necessary.  Safety will always need to come first, but for patients to build a life worth living and develop skills to combat negative thinking it is often preferable to have the client function as autonomously as possible.


Moore, M. (2008) A Journey of Growth.  Case in Point Magazine. Contexo Media Company.

Moore, M. & Tschannen-Moran, B. (2010). Coaching Psychology Manual.  Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.




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