Cognitive Versus Brief Focal Therapy for Stress

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • These days we’re all in a hurry. Sometimes it seems we’re on the lookout for the quickest route, the fastest and cheapest, and a life where we can get more for less. Has some of this rubbed off on the therapies available to treat stress?


    The days of a thorough, lengthy and deep analysis of our stress through psychotherapy have largely given way to ‘packaged’ approaches that are pre-scripted and of set duration. There’s some give and take according to need, but a lengthy deep exploration of the patient, their history and emotions isn’t something we now associate with the cognitive-behavioral approaches most often used for stress-related issues.

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    Does this mean we’ve lost something? Well I think that depends on your perspective and your needs. It’s true that one reason some people don’t like the cognitive approach is precisely for the reasons I’ve just mentioned. They also complain there’s too much emphasis on logic, the patient as scientist, and no space for the complexity that makes us who we are.


    So what’s a person to choose? Well, assuming you’re in a position where you can afford to choose, there are a few things you might want to consider. First, of all the psychological therapies available cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most tested as to its clinical efficacy. This means we know for a fact that it works, not for everyone, but it works. In this regard it’s as effective as medication, and if combined with medication, the effects are sometimes even more beneficial. Then there’s time and cost. The evidence suggests that cognitive therapy gets the thumbs up on both measures making it both practical and affordable.


    For most people then a short-term therapy has a lot of appeal. But what if it doesn’t work for you? What if your problems go way back, are difficult to disentangle and simply don’t respond to short-term therapy? What if you’d like to explore a less directive approach but still with an eye to structure and time? If this sounds more appealing then an approach called brief focal therapy might just fit the bill.


    Like CBT, brief focal therapy tends to be time limited but its psychodynamic bias means the focus is mainly on your experiences and current mental functioning. The therapist’s role is to help you recover whilst you gain insights along the way.


    In my next post I’ll be looking more at the brief focal therapy approach, the tools therapists use and what would be expected of you, the client in order to benefit from the approach.

Published On: December 08, 2013