There exist many theories that give clinical psychology and the field of psychology in general a scientific foundation. Theories create a body of knowledge upon which clinical psychologists can rely and make appropriate decisions. Two main theories that are relevant to clinical psychologists are behaviorism or behavior theory and cognitive theories (Compas & Gotlib, 2002). These two theories form a basis for two main approaches in clinical psychology, one based on studying behavior of patients while the other focuses on understanding the internal functioning of one’s mind. James Watson is believed to be the originator of behavioral theories, based on the idea that individual behavior can be measured, changed or trained to attain certain desired levels. According to the theory, behavior can be learnt through conditioning as a result of one interacting with their environment (Compas & Gotlib, 2002). Cognitive theories on the other hand focus on understanding internal mental states of individuals. The main tenets of cognitive theories are mental reductionism, mental processing and memory constructs. This entails understanding mental processes such as recalling, thinking and analyzing (Compas & Gotlib, 2002).
One similarity between the two theories is the fact that they all aim at improving the capacity of humans to think and work effectively. A major difference between the theories is in their approach. while behaviorism only studies actions and behaviors of individuals, cognitive theories study internal processes of the mind. An advantage for behaviorism is that it is easy to study trends in behavior and determine how to change it. On the other hand, the theory may not be able to explain why individuals show certain behaviors. The cognitive theory rectifies this by studying internal processes of the brain in order to be able to understand why people act the way they do.