Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 39–48 | Cite as

Embracing the Contribution of Both Behavioral and Cognitive Theories to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Maximizing the Richness

  • Barbara P. Early
  • Melissa D. Grady
Original Paper


Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular intervention models used by social workers and other mental health professionals. CBT stems from two very distinct and unique theoretical paradigms with rich histories. Yet, in practice, the full potential of the model is not realized as behavioral theories are applied as secondary to cognitive theories. In this paper, we present a brief overview of the histories of both cognitive and behavioral theories, a summary of their explanatory and intervention theories, and describe how they have been merged to date to create an intervention model. We argue that if CBT truly acknowledged the contributions of behavioral theory, the social work perspective of the person in environment would be more closely represented by balancing the internal mental process of cognitive theory with the determining contingencies of the external environment central to behavioral theory.


Cognitive and behavioral theories CBT Clinical theory Clinical practice 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Barbara Early and Melissa Grady declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Catholic School of Social ServiceThe Catholic University of AmericaWashingtonUSA

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