With many different types of therapy, you might face confusion about deciding which type is best for you. This is very common. However, performing thorough research on potential therapies can help you narrow down your search and determine which therapy (and therapist) might be a fit for your needs. 

During your research, you have likely come across Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). In fact, there are many different types of therapies that fall under the CBT umbrella, such as Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). DBT was created, in part, to address the deficits in the CBT method. It builds on the foundations of CBT, improving its effectiveness, and increasing your success. 

In this article, we will take a closer look at the difference between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. This way, you can make an informed decision regarding your mental health and therapy selection.

What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a form of talk therapy. Through the CBT method, you learn how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours impact each other. You also learn how to make positive changes in these thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that help improve your overall mental health and happiness.

For example, you may learn that you are holding onto certain beliefs (thoughts) that aren’t serving you. CBT addresses this by helping you think of situations in a more realistic and positive light, as well as helping you practice new skills and problem-solve. In fact, research has shown that CBT is effective for individuals with depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse problems, and more. 

What Is Dialectical Behavioural Therapy?

Similar to CBT, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is also a form of psychotherapy or talk therapy. Its core is rooted in CBT. However, DBT expands on CBT concepts, and narrows in on specific emotional and social factors. It was developed to help individuals cope with, and regulate, extreme emotions and behaviours in set situations. 

Typically, DBT consists of individual therapy, group therapy, and sometimes, telephone coaching or therapy. By incorporating various types of therapy, you can develop the necessary skills to feel better, as well as build a support network going through similar problems. 

The Stages of DBT

Usually, DBT has four stages. These stages focus on accepting your experiences and behaviours, and making positive changes to manage your emotions in the future.

Stage 1

In this phase of treatment, the goal is to help you feel more in control of your behaviour. 

Stage 2

In this stage, you may feel like you are silent in your state of suffering. You have gained control of your behaviours but your emotions have not changed. Thus, the goal in this phase involves helping you cope emotionally with the situations in your life.

Stage 3

Stage 3 involves defining your life goals and finding fulfillment within your life.

Stage 4

Many individuals may not require stage 4. However, it can help you find a deeper purpose or meaning in your life if it is not achieved during stage 3.

Skills Acquired Through DBT

Throughout your DBT treatment, you will learn the following skills:

  • Mindfulness – You learn to live in the present while recognizing thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as they occur.
  • Distress Tolerance – This involves learning how to deal with a crisis as it happens, particularly when you don’t have control over it. You learn acceptance and learn to move past it.
  • Interpersonal Skills – You learn to ask for what you need, as well as to say ‘no’ when appropriate. This helps create boundaries, maintains self-respect, and promotes good relationships with others.
  • Regulating Your Emotions – You obtain the skill of being able to manage your emotions and not allow them to control your thoughts and feelings.

Who Can DBT Help?

Originally, DBT was developed for individuals with borderline personality disorders. Yet, it has further been found to help those with depression, self-harm tendencies, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and eating disorders. 

What is DBT-Informed Therapy?

In DBT-informed therapy, key DBT principles are applied without the necessity of following every single part of the entire program. This means focusing on the techniques that suit the individual best, rather than going through set stages. For someone who isn’t dealing with severe illness or suicidal thoughts, DBT-informed therapy can also offer a more adaptable and customized approach to treatment, tailoring skills and training to meet their specific needs. Some therapists may be trained in DBT, whereas others may provide DBT-informed therapy.

The Key Difference Between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy

When it comes down to it, CBT is primarily about learning to change your negative thoughts and behaviours. DBT, on the other hand, helps people accept their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and also focuses on methods to help change them. DBT also incorporates interpersonal skills — not just personal skills. 

Determining whether CBT or DBT is right for you may be best done by an experienced and certified therapist at Bhatia Psychology Group. These two types of therapy have helped countless people, improving their lives, and helping them find greater fulfillment. While both take time and conscious effort, the tools and skills you learn will last your entire life. 

At Bhatia Psychology Group, we are here to guide you through the tough hurdles in life. Several of our team of caring, compassionate, and experienced therapists can help you determine which type of therapy is best for you and your life. Book an appointment at our Richmond Hill clinic and learn how to change your perspective to improve your life. 



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