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Comparison and contrast CBT and DBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) each play an important role in the treatment of mental health problems. These two types of therapy fall under the umbrella of psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Throughout the therapeutic process, a person facing challenges interacts with a professional in a safe, confidential and growth-stimulating environment where they learn new skills on how to manage these challenges.

CBT and DBT are among the most common psychotherapy methods used to treat mental health problems. While they share many similarities, they also have some important differences.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, mainly focuses on the relationship between thoughts and feelings. This line of thinking focuses on the impact of thoughts on feelings and how certain patterns of behavior can lead to mental health issues. CBT also focuses on replacing unnecessary thoughts and behaviors with new actions and ways of thinking. Therapists often use CBT to treat mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.

Therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy and work with clients to identify problems and challenges, uncover causes, and establish new ones coping mechanisms, tools and strategies to overcome or overcome them.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy, also known as DBT, is a modified alternative to CBT. It was originally created to treat borderline disorder (borderline personality disorder). Therapists often use DBT with clients who are having suicidal thoughts or actions, but they have discovered new ways to deal with other mental health issues through dialectical behavior therapy.

DBT emphasizes practicing mindfulness, increasing tolerance to distress, building emotional regulation skills and developing relationships. Clients work with their therapist to uncover harmful thought patterns, accept them, and learn to respond to them in a healthy way. Balance is essential in this form of therapy as clients strive to accept their challenges and work towards change.

Differences between CBT and DBT


The main difference between cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy is a matter of emphasis: CBT focuses on thought patterns and their reorientation; DBT focuses on balance and the relationship between acceptance and change. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy aim to help the client change their thought patterns.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy is usually finished after a short interval. These sessions focus on specific issues. With a defined goal in mind, clients have something they are working towards, and CBT is over once they get there. DBT typically involves sessions over a longer period where the therapist and client can see the big picture.


Another difference between CBT and DBT can be a context. Cognitive behavioral therapy almost always takes place in an individual setting. The client and therapist work together, and then the client will often have “homework” to take home. On the other hand, Dialectical Behavior Therapy can be used both one-on-one and in a group setting.

Choose a method

Some therapists use more than one therapy method, also called modality or therapy models, often referred to as an eclectic approach; other therapists will choose the model they deem best suited to each person; still others specialize in just one or two models. CBT and DBT are useful in treating a wide range of mental health problems. To determine which approach will work best for you, consult a therapist.

To get in touch with a therapist in your area, click here.

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