Cheat Sheet to Understanding the Differences Between CBT and DBT Therapy


Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts and emotions? Have your relationships taken a hit due to your emotional state? If so, you are not alone, and the good news is there are evidence-based therapies designed to help people like you gain control over their thoughts and emotions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are two such therapies that have proven to be incredibly effective. But what are they? And how do they differ from each other? Let’s delve into these questions and clarify the intricate differences between CBT and DBT therapy.

CBT and DBT are types of psychotherapy, often referred to as talk therapy. CBT is a common form of therapy that assists people to identify and modify damaging thought patterns and behaviors. Conversely, DBT, derived from CBT, encourages people to experience and accept their emotions while developing healthier ways to cope with them.

These therapies have many similarities but possess key differences. CBT focuses mainly on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, while DBT works to help the individual accept and validate their emotions and equip them with coping skills. Here at DBT of South Jersey, we focus primarily on DBT, helping individuals understand and manage their emotions without judgment.

To help you understand the difference quickly, let’s look at this summarized comparison:

Focus Changing dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors Accepting emotions and learning coping skills
Goal Cognitive and behavioral change Emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness
Uses Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, phobias, substance abuse Borderline Personality Disorder, chronic suicidal ideation, mood disorders
DBT of South Jersey Focus N/A We are committed to addressing your symptoms and helping you manage your emotions efficiently

Figure: A visual representation of how DBT works, from DBT of South Jersey. The process includes mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Figure: A visual representation of how DBT works, from DBT of South Jersey. The process includes mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Drawing this differentiating line is more than just understanding the therapies; it is about understanding which one is better suited for your specific needs. In the following sections, we will delve deeper into both these therapies, helping you make an informed decision about the therapy choice most suitable for you.

Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

The Basics of CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a common form of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying thought patterns to change behaviors and emotional responses. The central tenet of CBT is that our thoughts and behaviors significantly influence our feelings, and, therefore, changing the way we think and react to situations can help us feel better.

Shaelene Lauriano Kite, our expert here at DBT of South Jersey, highlights the importance of CBT as an effective treatment approach for a range of mental and emotional health issues. The goal is to help you identify and challenge unproductive thoughts, and in turn, learn practical self-help strategies.

The 5 Steps of CBT

CBT is often broken down into five easy steps that focus on changing your thinking. Here’s a brief rundown of the process:

  1. Make A List: Identify situations, thoughts, or behaviors that might be contributing to the problem you’re facing.
  2. Record Unproductive Thoughts: Monitor your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with these situations.
  3. Create Replacement Thoughts: Challenge your unproductive thoughts and replace them with more positive or productive ones.
  4. Read Your List Often: Regularly revisiting your list will help reinforce your new thinking patterns.
  5. Notice And Replace: Actively observe your thoughts and replace any negative patterns with your newly formed productive thoughts.

Conditions Treated with CBT

CBT is widely used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It’s also used to help manage symptoms of various physical health conditions, like chronic pain and sleep disorders.

The Effectiveness of CBT

CBT has been proven to be very effective in treating a range of mental health conditions. Its strength lies in its practical approach, focusing on the present and providing tangible strategies and tools to manage negative thought patterns.

At DBT of South Jersey, we have seen firsthand how CBT can help individuals regain control of their thoughts and emotions, leading to a significant improvement in their quality of life. However, it’s important to note that just like any other form of therapy, the effectiveness of CBT varies for each individual and is influenced by various factors such as the individual’s commitment to the process and the severity of their symptoms.

Feel free to reach out to our team at DBT of South Jersey if you have more specific questions about CBT. We are here to help you navigate through your mental health journey and find the most suitable form of therapy for your needs.

Understanding Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

The Basics of DBT

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a specialized type of therapy designed to help people who struggle with emotional regulation and engage in self-destructive behaviors. It was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan as a response to the limitations of traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in treating individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder and suicidal tendencies.

At the heart of DBT is the concept of dialectics, which is the integration of opposing viewpoints or accepting that two seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time. This therapy also emphasizes the principle of “radical acceptance,” or the idea of acknowledging pain, stress, and other negative experiences but also believing one has the tools to cope with them.

The 7 Skills of DBT

DBT is skill-based and strives to equip individuals with the necessary tools to handle stress, regulate emotions, and improve interpersonal relationships. These skills include mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation. Alongside these, DBT also includes skills teaching on cognitive behavioral theoretical framework, validation, and the practice of dialectics.

Conditions Treated with DBT

While originally designed for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT has also proven effective in treating a variety of other mental health disorders. These include mood disorders, substance-use disorders, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you or a loved one struggles with any of these conditions, DBT might be a beneficial therapy approach.

The Effectiveness of DBT

DBT has shown significant effectiveness in reducing suicidal ideation, self-harm behaviors, and other life-interfering behaviors. It also helps improve emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships. In fact, our team at DBT of South Jersey has seen firsthand how this therapy can transform lives by replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms with skillful behaviors, ultimately leading to improved quality of life.

DBT is delivered in four stages, each focusing on different aspects of the patient’s life, from stabilizing the person to addressing ordinary life problems, and ultimately, to reaching the highest level of functioning. Not all clients need to go through all four stages; the therapy is flexible and can be modified based on individual needs.

In our next section, we’ll dive deeper into the differences and similarities between CBT and DBT. Understanding these can help you make an informed decision about which therapy is best suited for your needs.

Comparing CBT and DBT

As we’ve seen, CBT and DBT are both effective therapies for mental health disorders, and they share some common elements. However, there are also important differences between the two. Let’s take a closer look.

Key Differences Between CBT and DBT

The main difference between CBT and DBT lies in their focus and approach. CBT is generally more focused on changing harmful thinking and behaviors, and its sessions are often one-on-one. It’s also a quicker process, with treatment usually lasting between 5 to 20 sessions. On the other hand, DBT involves both individual and group therapy sessions and focuses more on accepting troublesome thoughts and behaviors while learning to manage them. DBT typically requires a longer commitment, usually between 6 to 12 months, for it to be most effective.

Moreover, while CBT is primarily present-focused, DBT also allows space to process past traumas. This emphasis on emotional and social aspects is what sets DBT apart. DBT also includes skill-building in areas such as distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness, which go beyond the scope of CBT.

When it comes to the goals of treatment, CBT uses the S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) approach, while DBT aims for overall improvement in the quality of life, with stages focusing on reducing harmful behaviors, processing trauma, and meeting personal goals.

Similarities Between CBT and DBT

Despite these differences, CBT and DBT have a lot in common. Both therapies help clients to better manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and work to replace maladaptive patterns. They are both evidence-based and are often the first-line intervention for a variety of mental health concerns. Both therapies also involve homework assignments, and they both teach positive coping skills.

Can You Have CBT and DBT Together?

While CBT and DBT are distinct therapies, they can be used in conjunction with each other. They can complement each other as they both aim to help individuals manage their thoughts and behaviors effectively. However, the decision to use both therapies should be guided by a mental health professional based on the individual’s specific needs and conditions.

At DBT of South Jersey, we tailor our treatment plans to meet the unique needs of each individual. We offer both individual and group therapy sessions, and our therapists have foundational training in DBT. We also operate an adherent model of DBT, which means we adhere closely to the model as designed by its creator, Dr. Marsha Linehan.

In our next section, we will provide further guidance on how to choose between CBT and DBT.

Choosing Between CBT and DBT

When it comes to deciding between CBT and DBT therapy, there are several factors you should take into consideration. Your diagnosis, therapy goals, and previous experience with therapy can all play a crucial role in determining which therapy is most suitable for you.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between CBT and DBT

Your diagnosis is a significant factor in deciding between CBT and DBT. CBT is often more effective for conditions like depression and anxiety. On the other hand, DBT is usually more beneficial for individuals with borderline personality disorder and chronic thoughts of suicide.

Your therapy goals also matter. If you are aiming to change specific maladaptive thinking and behavioral patterns in a relatively short timeframe, CBT, with its structured and goal-oriented approach, might be a better fit. However, if your goal is to improve emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance over a longer period, DBT could be more suitable.

Your previous experience with therapy can also influence your decision. If you’ve tried therapy before and found it ineffective, it might be worth considering a different therapeutic approach. It’s not uncommon for individuals to use elements from both DBT and CBT to manage their symptoms.

Consulting with a Mental Health Professional

The best way to determine which type of therapy treatment is right for you is to consult with a mental health professional – a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist. At DBT of South Jersey, we consider your symptoms, treatment history, and the goals you outline for your therapy. Based on this comprehensive evaluation, we recommend the best next steps for you.

In addition to individual therapy, we also offer DBT group therapy sessions, where individuals can learn and practice DBT skills in a supportive and collaborative environment. We also provide DBT phone coaching for real-time guidance during difficult moments outside of therapy sessions.

Choosing the right therapy is a personal journey, and what works best for one person might not work as well for another. The key is to find a therapeutic approach and a therapist who makes you feel understood and supported. With the right help, you can learn to navigate your emotional landscape more effectively and foster healthier relationships.

How DBT of South Jersey Can Help

At DBT of South Jersey, we specialize in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a therapeutic approach that has proven effective for a range of mental health disorders. Our team of clinicians is dedicated to helping our clients navigate their emotional struggles and cultivate healthier relationships.

Our Unique Approach to DBT

Our approach to DBT is comprehensive and individualized. We offer a variety of services, including individual DBT therapy, group therapy, and telephone consultation. We believe in the power of DBT to help individuals regulate their emotions, manage stress, and live a more fulfilling life.

Our DBT program is divided into four stages, each focusing on different aspects of your recovery. We start by stabilizing your condition, reducing harmful behaviors, and addressing factors that interfere with your quality of life. We then move on to helping you experience a full range of emotions, addressing ordinary life problems, and finally, increasing your sense of completeness and reaching the highest level of functioning.

The Benefits of Choosing DBT of South Jersey

Choosing DBT of South Jersey means entrusting your mental health to a team of experienced professionals who are proficient in DBT. Our clinicians are equipped with the knowledge and skills to help you address your individual struggles and build a life worth living.

We also offer services for our veterans, recognizing the unique challenges they face. We work with the local VA to provide comprehensive DBT to our veterans at no cost, supporting them in their recovery process.

Additionally, our training goes beyond the therapy room. We also provide phone coaching, offering in-the-moment guidance on using DBT skills effectively.

In conclusion, whether you are dealing with emotional regulation issues, self-destructive behaviors, or interpersonal relationship challenges, we at DBT of South Jersey are here to help. Our goal is to guide you on your path to emotional balance and a more fulfilling life. Reach out to book a call with us and start your journey towards healing today.

behavioral therapy cbt and dbt


Conclusion: Understanding the Right Therapy for You

The choice between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a personal one, and largely dependent on your unique needs, symptoms, and diagnoses. CBT has been particularly successful in treating conditions like depression and anxiety, while DBT has shown promising results for individuals grappling with borderline personality disorder and chronic suicidal thoughts. In some cases, elements from both therapies may be integrated to manage symptoms.

At DBT of South Jersey, we are committed to providing you with the most effective treatment for your specific circumstances. Whether you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, self-harm tendencies, or relationship challenges, our skilled therapists are trained to help. We offer an adherent model of DBT, ensuring that the therapy is delivered as it was initially designed for maximum effectiveness.

Deciding to seek therapy is a brave step towards recovery. It’s not an overnight process, but with commitment and the right therapeutic approach tailored to your needs, you can gradually make small changes that add up to less pain and a better life. We are here to guide and support you every step of the way.

To learn more about DBT, CBT, and how therapy can support your journey to wellness, visit our FAQ page or contact us to schedule an appointment. You might also find our blog helpful as it contains a wealth of information about various mental health topics.

Understanding CBT and DBT therapy is just the first step. The next is reaching out for help – and we’re here when you’re ready.


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