Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are similar in that they both seek to help the patient become aware of the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life and well-being of their patients. However, they have some notable differences. This guide outlines some important differences between DBT and CBT that will help you figure out which treatment may be best for you or your loved one.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that was developed in an effort to treat individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). DBT also has applications for treating depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions. The basic premise of Dialectical Behavior Therapy is that there is a balance between opposites—in our behavior, we’re often doing two contradictory things at once.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps people identify distorted patterns of thinking, recognise destructive behaviors, and replace them with healthier habits. Most commonly used to treat depression or anxiety disorders, CBT can also be applied to work problems or interpersonal issues.

Differences between DBT and CBT

Though there are many similarities between these two mental health modalities, their differences lie in how much emphasis is placed on particular concepts. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) emphasises identifying negative thoughts and patterns to modify thinking habits. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), on the other hand, focuses on changing unhelpful behaviors before focusing on what lies beneath them—thoughts or emotions. Rather than focusing purely on self-talk and thoughts, it also teaches clients how to manage their emotions and behaviors effectively in everyday situations.

How are DBT and CBT Similar?

Both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) focus on a wide range of emotional disorders, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, anger issues, relationship problems, and chronic pain. Both methods can be used to treat those with suicidal thoughts or a history of self-harm. You’ll likely see some overlap in therapists who practice these techniques—often an individual will be trained in both.

Benefits of using both DBT & CBT with a therapist/doctor

Those who practice both forms of therapy say that they complement each other well. For example, a therapist may use CBT to identify specific triggers for a negative thought pattern or behavior, while utilising DBT techniques to help their client work through those challenges without letting emotions get out of control.