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The Difference Between CBT and DBT

Updated: Jul 29

How do you know what type of therapy is best for you? It is important to find a type of therapy and therapist that best fits your needs. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a form of psychotherapy and is one of the most common forms of therapy. It is an umbrella term under which many different types of therapy fall, including DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy). DBT was created to expand the CBT method, using its foundations, so they do have some differences between them.


Finding the best fit for you requires an understanding of how there two forms of therapy differ and if they are the right choice for you.


What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy


CBT is a form of talk therapy that aims to teach about the interconnectivity of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and how to use this relationship to create positive change in your life. Changing the way you think or feel about a situation may help change the way you react and behave in future similar situations.


It has been proven to be effective in treating mental health issues like depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeping issues.


Treatment starts with educating you about mental health and how it affects you. Then you will go on to learn practical skills and strategies to help you make changes in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in order to deal with future problems.


Treatment is tailored to your needs, however, there are a few guiding principles in the CBT method. First, the method treats emotional responses. In other words, treatment works to change the way you think about or react to situations in order to help you feel better overall.


Second, while in treatment you should be able to apply learned strategies to everyday life without guidance from your therapist.


The third feature of CBT is the importance of a good patient-therapist relationship. Having a good and open relationship with your therapist is vital for the success of CBT. Therefore, it is important to choose the right therapist for you and make sure you trust and are comfortable with the therapist to receive more benefits from therapy.


Lastly, CBT relies on cognition and rationality. CBT encourages you to apply logic and reason in order to direct your decision-making and responses to stimuli. Reducing your emotional response to situations will also reduce the negative feelings associated with the situation.


What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy


Like mentioned earlier, DBT is based on the principles of CBT, so its core is rooted in the same place. It is also a form of psychotherapy or talks therapy. DBT expands the concepts and narrows its focus on specific emotional and social factors. It was originally developed to treat personality disorders like BPD in order to help individuals cope with extreme emotions and harmful behaviours. DBT also works to expand support networks and community-building skills in order to give you the necessary skills to feel better; allowing you to ground yourself within the environment around you and helping you regulate extreme emotions.


DBT expands on the skills learned during treatment to include

  • Mindfulness and learning to live in the present rather than the past or the future

  • Distress tolerance or how to deal with crisis, specifically when you do not have control (how to accept and move on)

  • Interpersonal skills, or how to create personal boundaries, maintain self-respect and manage good relationships with others

  • Emotion regulation or the ability to not let your emotions control your thought and feelings


Current research suggests that DBT can help treat people with many different types of mental illnesses beyond BPD. People with sexual trauma also respond well to DBT.


There are four stages of DBT

· Help you feel more in control of your behaviour

· How to emotionally cope with the situations in your life

· How to find fulfilment in your life and define life goals

· How to find a deeper purpose and meaning in your life



Key Differences


DBT builds from the principles of CBT; you learn additional skills to the ones promoted in CBT. Essentially the difference between CBT and DBT is the former focuses on learning to change negative thoughts and feelings whereas the latter focuses on learning to accept your thoughts and feelings.


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The Difference Between CBT and DBT