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Difference Between CBT and DBT

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Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) are two kinds of psychotherapy or talk therapy. CBT is one of the most common types of psychotherapy, based on evidence. It supports a person in identifying and changing maladaptive thought processes and behaviours. DBT is also a proof-based treatment that has been derived from CBT. Rather than changing the maladaptive emotions and thoughts, DBT boosts facing and accepting the emotions and creating healthy ways of coping with them.

Before we know about the difference between CBT and DBT, it is important to know about CBT and DBT in detail.

What you should know about cognitive behavioural therapy

CBT is one of the well-established psychotherapies that is used for the treatment of various health conditions and symptoms such as depression, stress, phobias, substance use disorder, anxiety, etc. It mainly works on the basic principle that thoughts influence beliefs, and beliefs influence one’s behaviour.

What are the six main points of dialectical behaviour therapy?

Check out the six main points of dialectical behaviour therapy

  • DBT was founded by Dr Marsha Linehen to treat borderline personality disorder. 
  • It treats people who have the urge to harm themselves or get engaged in some self-destruction behaviour. 
  • It was also proven to be effective for the treatment of other mental health illnesses like mood disorders, eating disorders, and PTSD.
  • DBT has a cognitive-behavioural theoretical framework
  • Validation
  • Dialectics is when two opposite things are right at the same time
  • Radial acceptance or accepting the fact that pain, stress, and other negative things can happen, but you must have the right tools for coping with them.

Differences between DBT and CBT

In spite of some similarities, DBT and CBT are not the same. While some patients might respond well to DBT, for others, CBT is good. Here are some of the major differences that exist between CBT and DBT.

  • Goals. CBT is mainly goal-oriented, as it aims to assist patients in recognising negative thoughts or behaviours, and then it offers patients the required tools for adjusting those issues. DBT also has some goals but is not so firm and direct. Its main purpose is to assist patients in finding a way to accept themselves, manage emotions, and regulate destructive behaviours. DBT mainly focuses on social and emotional aspects, and CBT focuses on the behaviour of the patient.
  • Approach. A major difference between DBT and CBT is how they approach the patient. DBT mainly focuses on a person’s interaction with others as well as with themselves. It uses mindfulness philosophies to assist patients in accepting themselves and the environment. But CBT is logic-focused. The therapist encourages the patients to use critical thinking to develop healthy ways of thinking and behaving.
  • Kind of sessions. CBT sessions are short when compared with DBT sessions. While CBT lasts for a few weeks, DBT is a month-long process. A vital difference between them is that DBT includes a group therapy component. Even if CBT sometimes has group sessions, talking to peers is not required. For those patients doing DBT, having the ability to do group sessions is an important part of the whole process. It offers people a chance to practise skills such as interpersonal communication in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Use. Because CBT mainly focuses on altering problematic thinking, DBT involves more regulation of intense emotions, but their uses are different. CBT is effective for depression, anxiety disorders, the management of phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. DBt is effective for borderline personality disorders, self-harm, substance use disorders, and eating disorders.
  • Modalities. CBT is mainly guided by principles but does not have a set protocol. It includes mindfulness things like acceptance and commitment therapy or repeat exposure to areas of problems like exposure and response prevention therapy. In addition, the administration of CBT depends on the specified issues of a person. But DBT is less condition-focused and consists of mainly three modalities:
  • Group dynamics. A group of skill training sessions where a trained leader will teach the client about important behavioural skills that they can apply to psychological issues.
  • Individual therapy. Individual therapy allows a person to focus on the issues at hand and work further on newly learned skills.
  • On-call phone coaching. It is there for people when they require help coping with difficulties that are outside of the group or therapy.
  • Types of changes. CBT assists its clients in identifying and changing problematic patterns of thinking as well as behaviour to get a healthy and realistic outlook on life. DBt assists clients in regulating their emotions and enhances interpersonal relationships through acceptance, behavioural alterations, and acceptance.


So, if you are experiencing any symptoms of mental health conditions, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider or mental health professionals about all the options available for treatment. Based on your situation and requirements, CBT and DBT can be beneficial to you. With so many options available for the treatment of mental health conditions, it is quite confusing to know which method is best for you. CBT and DBT are two common types of practices that assist individuals who are suffering from various kinds of mental health illnesses.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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