The Difference Between CBT and DBT: 2 Evidence-Based Treatment Modalities


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are evidence-based methods used in psychotherapy and group therapy. If you’ve recently began treatment and have heard that you will be using some skills based in either of these methods, you may be wondering what they are and what to expect. Put simply, DBT is a form of CBT – so consider it an extension of this form of treatment. If your therapist decides to move forward with one of these methods, it will be dependent on your needs.

In general, CBT helps people to realize how their thoughts and beliefs shape their actions. The strongest evidence for CBT has been shown in studies of anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders, bulimia, anger control problems, and general stress, as well as substance use disorders, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. Often time-limited, CBT is goal-focused and may involve probing at past wounds to reach the root of your conflict while identifying solutions and changing destructive patterns of behavior.

DBT differs from CBT in that is focuses more on interactions with others through communicating in a way that is assertive and grounded in self-respect. While DBT was originally created to treat borderline personality disorder, it has also been shown to treat bulimia, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance, abuse, and more. DBT is grounded in theory that individuals respond to certain situations with higher emotional stimulation than others; with this, DBT teaches interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance/reality acceptance skills, emotional regulation, and mindfulness skills.

Both CBT and DBT can incorporate past experiences to help inform current thoughts and behaviors. If you need to focus more on your thoughts and how you feel about the world from your past experiences, CBT may be a better method for you. If you need to work with a therapist on your reactions to others and challenging situations because of deeply held beliefs, DBT could be beneficial. Either way, both methods have proven to be very effective and with the right therapist and determination, you will be on your way towards a happier, healthier life.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse treatment program. We believe in holistic recovery, meaning that we will work with you to restore your mind, body, and spirit. If you’re seeking treatment for either substance abuse or dual diagnosis, call us at 888-743-0490. There are many people that can help you develop the tools you need to succeed.