What Is The Difference Between CBT and DBT?

Therapy is a commonly suggested form of treatment for anyone experiencing mental health challenges. A popular type of therapy is psychotherapy, an umbrella term for various treatment techniques that help identify and transform distressing emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Also known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy typically takes place in a one-on-one setting with a mental health professional, where you engage in dialogue with a therapist to uncover unhealthy habits and develop new skills.

There is a large number of psychotherapy options available. Two of these types include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT). Depending on the severity of symptoms and the specific mental health diagnoses, different psychotherapies might get recommended. For example, DBT is an effective treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). In contrast, CBT treats depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy consists of two parts. One part involves cognition, including the ability to recognize your patterns of thoughts and attitudes. Cognitive-based therapies aim to reveal and transform false and unhealthy beliefs about ourselves or something else. They help individuals identify and replace these distressing thought patterns with more positive and realistic thoughts, encouraging clients to have more control over the thoughts that arise. The second part of CBT involves behavior, identifying individual behavior, and recognizing behavior as helpful or harmful. The second part of behavioral therapy focuses on altering problem behaviors.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy addresses current problems in cognition and behavior and recognizes the connection between them. While most psychotherapies focus on past problems, CBT focuses on present issues in thoughts and behavior and works to find solutions.

What Is Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectal behavioral therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. While it works to change problem behaviors similarly to traditional CBT, it also emphasizes mindfulness strategies. The keyword “dialectical” means the interaction of conflicting thoughts or ideas. In DBT, “dialectical” acknowledges that acceptance and change are necessary to improve one’s wellbeing. While acceptance is one of the core principles of mindfulness, DBT sessions work to acknowledge difficult thoughts and emotions. DBT also promotes emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance in the same way.

DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). It effectively treats personality and mood disorders because it helps one manage their own emotions by identifying and accepting them. DBT gives clients autonomy and control over their behaviors. By being fully aware of the present moment and observing your thoughts and behaviors, you are more likely to understand where triggers and urges develop and when to stop engaging in unhealthy behavior.

Key Differences 

Although DBT is a kind of CBT, they are both distinctly their therapies. One key difference between the two is that DBT validates your experiences and acknowledges that they are real. DBT holds a strong emphasis on accepting who you are.

While any therapy stresses the importance of a client-therapist connection, relationships are even more important in DBT. DBT sessions evolve your understanding of your cognitive processes and teach you how to manage your emotions to build relationships with others. When problems arise in your relationships, you can use the skills you learned from DBT to foster healthier coping mechanisms and accept the things you can not change.

Time commitment is another thing that sets these two therapies apart. CBT tends to consist of weekly therapy sessions. DBT is likely to be more comprehensive and more involved. DBT protocol may include individual sessions, skills training, and even catch-up calls with your therapist between therapy sessions. It is to ensure the recognition of behavior and therefore change when necessary.

Aside from interpersonal relationships, the area of focus for CBT and DBT overlap but have small discrepancies, too. CBT concentrates primarily on thinking and how cognitive processes function in a client. DBT uses a heavy focus on thinking distortion, although it may focus more on emotions. DBT is used to validate an individual’s emotions to move beyond them. Emotions are not only cognitive but can also be a physical experience for a client.

What Therapy Will Work for Me?

It always helps to understand therapy options better when considering treatment for yourself or a loved one. When deciding what therapy option will be right for you, consider talking with your doctor. Based on your target treatment goals and your severity of mental distress, you may find that one will work better than the other. That said, both therapies hold unique benefits to foster mental growth and development, essential for your overall wellbeing.

There are numerous psychotherapy treatment options available for your mental health needs. Two options often considered include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectal behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy works to surface unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior. Dialectal behavioral therapy is a type of CBT that focuses on mindfulness principles, such as acceptance of one’s thoughts and total awareness of the present moment. While both effectively treat different mental health conditions, each type of therapy has unique differences, including time commitment, the intensity of focus on interpersonal relationships, and focus on thoughts versus emotions. Nevertheless, both show promising results in treating a range of conditions. At Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center, we work with teenagers that experience challenges with unhealthy thoughts and behavior. We recommend treatment options based on the severity of mental health symptoms, potential diagnosis, and target goals of treatment. For more information about the treatment options we offer, give us a call at (303) 443-3343

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