DBT vs CBT: Which One is Best for You?

Mental health is a key component of a high-quality life. However, research suggests that 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 5 adolescents in the UK will experience a mental health problem at one point in their life or another. When one is diagnosed with a mental health problem, they may be faced with a decision about which treatment options would be best for them.

This decision can be overwhelming for anybody. A commonly used technique for those struggling with specific mental health issues, like depression or anxiety, is psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy.

DBT vs CBT therapy image

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is referred to as talk therapy for a reason. It is a technique mental health professionals use to help their clients work through their emotional problems, mental health issues, and internal conflicts by talking about them.

Psychotherapy can help with a wide variety of mental health issues that may negatively impact a person’s quality of life, including trauma, grief and loss, and certain mental health disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seasonal depression, or social anxiety.

The therapy technique involves building a trusting relationship with a therapist who then works with the client to deep dive into their inner thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. The end goal of psychotherapy is to figure out the root cause of the client’s issues and help the client figure out how to cope and get past the problem.

One may consider two effective psychotherapy methods for treatment: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT).

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most commonly used talk therapy techniques. The therapy method is a general form of therapy based on the idea that our thoughts control how we perceive the world and, ultimately, how we feel. Sometimes, we can fall into a pattern of catastrophizing every little thing, causing our perception of the world to appear in a more negative light. CBT works to figure out the thinking patterns causing the client issues and reframe them to be more realistic, positive, and productive.

The treatment is an excellent option for those experiencing mental health disorders, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorders
  • Phobias
  • Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Sleep disorders

CBT is an incredible option for many clients but may not work for everybody. Sometimes, a different approach will be more effective for treating one’s mental health struggles.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a relatively new form of psychotherapy that can be considered a more specific type of CBT. DBT was created to reduce extreme emotions experienced by those with a mental health disorder.

The therapy technique works to find the thinking patterns causing emotional extremes in clients and helps create coping strategies to reframe thoughts and reduce the impact of these extremes.

As the therapist helps the client manage their emotional extremes, they can better help them get down to the root cause of their mental health struggles.

The therapy technique was developed specifically to help those experiencing borderline personality disorder (BPD), but can also be effective in treating other mental health conditions, such as:

DBT vs CBT: The Main Differences

CBT and DBT are similar in many ways. However, there are a few key differences between the two therapy methods. The main focus in CBT and DBT treatment is the influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours have on your emotions and perception of the world.

While these two have a similar focus, there is a significant shift in the end goals regarding their treatment methods. The end goal of CBT is more general and works to help clients recognise problematic thinking patterns and reframe them to be more productive and realistic. On the other hand, DBT focuses on emotional regulation, mindfulness, and acceptance. The end goal for this therapy is to combat self-harming behaviours and learn emotional regulation.

Which Treatment is Right for You?

Deciding which treatment to pursue can be overwhelming, to say the least. Fortunately, this is not a decision you have to make on your own. Mental health professionals are trained to help you find the best option for your personal needs and goals. They will help you work through what is causing your struggles, examine your treatment history, and figure out your goals for therapy. 

Working with your therapist, you will need to consider a few different aspects to choose the best option for you, including:

Your diagnosis.

Your diagnosis will play a significant role in the effectiveness of different treatments. Your therapist will be able to help determine your diagnosis and explain the treatment options that have been shown to be most effective for treatment.

Your lifestyle.

Because DBT is a far more extensive treatment option, it can be more time-consuming than CBT. This is because it requires many different sessions, including individual therapy sessions, skill development training, and personal coaching.

Your personal goals for therapy.

CBT focuses on the thinking patterns and cognitive aspects of your mental health struggles. Meanwhile, DBT focuses more on the emotional and behavioural aspects of your mental health struggles. The two therapy techniques work to teach different skills, as well. CBT teaches one to frame their thoughts to create more positive perceptions and outcomes. Meanwhile, DBT works to create more specific skills for managing extreme emotions and behaviours.

Your relationships.

DBT is a great therapy option for those who would like to address struggles within their interpersonal relationships. The therapy technique works to help you handle intense emotions in an effective and productive way, which can be an important interpersonal skill to develop.

If you are experiencing mental health struggles and are ready to begin your journey to healing, we are here for you. Our highly-qualified therapists are here to help you figure out the root cause of your problems and find coping skills to help you feel better as soon as possible.

To learn more about how we can help you, fill in the form below for a free call back from a member of our team.

About The Author

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Ashleigh Wykes

Accredited by the UK Association of Psychological Therapies, Ashleigh is our DBT lead and part of our outreach and mental health support team.

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