Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT

Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT in Jersey

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT?

Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT are both evidence-based therapeutic approaches used for treatment. While they share some similarities, they have distinct differences in their theoretical foundations. 

Mental health facilities such as True Life Care have qualified mental health professionals. True Life Care mental health professionals help determine the most appropriate treatment approach. We can help you choose the best therapeutic approach to meet your needs. 

What Similarities are Between Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT?

Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT share common elements. They include cognitive restructuring and skill building. However, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) incorporates more components. They include mindfulness and a dialectical framework.  These distinct components help to address emotional dysregulation and interpersonal difficulties. Also, the choice between CBT and DBT depends on the specific needs of the individual.  Let’s explore each therapeutic approach individually. We will also explore how these distinct therapies work together for the good of the individual on their healing journey.

Definition of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic approach developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). But, DBT has since been in use for various other mental health conditions.  These mental health conditions include difficulties in managing distressing emotions and emotional dysregulation. 

What are the Main Goals of DBT?

The main goals of DBT are to help individuals in various ways. Some of the goals include developing tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness skills. These skills enhance the client’s ability to cope with intense emotions.  It also helps to improve relationships, and lead a more fulfilling life. DBT places a strong emphasis on acceptance and validation while promoting change.

How Does DBT Help Clients?

DBT recognizes the client’s inherent worth and validates their experiences. It also encourages them to develop new skills and make positive life changes. 

DBT is a specialized therapy requiring specific training and expertise. It involves mental health professionals at facilities such as True Life Care. These professionals have experience working with the population suitable for DBT.

Definition of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a used therapeutic approach. It focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It involves the idea that our thoughts influence our emotions and behaviors. Also, it helps by identifying and changing negative or distorted thinking patterns. Thus, we can change our emotional and behavioral responses. According to CBT, our interpretations of events impact our emotions and behaviors. Based on these interpretations, individuals can develop more balanced and realistic thinking. It leads to improved emotional well-being and adaptive behaviors. 

What are the Goals of CBT?

CBT is a short-term structured therapy that is often goal-oriented and time-limited. CBT focuses on addressing the client’s symptoms and problems. Here, the therapist and client work to identify treatment goals.  They also help to develop strategies for change. CBT also treats various mental health conditions. Some of these conditions include phobias, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.1The individual’s needs and preferences determine the choice of therapy the individual needs. True Life Care facilities can help determine the most appropriate treatment approach. 

Key Differences Between DBT and CBT

Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT share some similarities. Yet, they also have distinct differences in their treatment strategies and target populations. Here are some key differences between dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT:

Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT on Focus and Target Population

DBT’s initial function was to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It targets individuals with emotional dysregulation, self-destructive behaviors, and chronic suicidal tendencies. Yet, it is also used for other conditions as well.

CBT is a broader therapeutic approach. It helps to treat various mental health conditions. Some of these conditions include anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), and more. It applies to a wider range of populations. CBT is not only designed for individuals with BPD.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT on Dialectics and Acceptance

Dialectics is a central component of DBT. It emphasizes finding a balance between acceptance and change. DBT recognizes and validates the individual’s experiences and emotions while encouraging change-oriented strategies.  But, CBT acknowledges the importance of acceptance and validation. Its primary focus is challenging and changing negative thinking patterns. It places greater emphasis on cognitive restructuring and the modification of irrational beliefs.

More Key Differences Between DBT and CBT

There are other key differences between dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT. Here are some more of those key differences:

Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT on Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a core component of DBT. It involves paying non-judgmental attention to the present moment. Mindfulness also involves cultivating awareness of one’s thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness practice integrates into all aspects of DBT.  But, mindfulness is more central in CBT than it is in DBT. CBT focuses on identifying and modifying negative thoughts and beliefs. It leads to improved emotional and behavioral responses.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT on Emotional Regulation

DBT addresses only emotional dysregulation. It helps individuals develop skills to identify, understand, and manage intense emotions. It focuses on emotion regulation techniques to stabilize mood. Hence it reduces impulsive or self-destructive behaviors. In contrast, CBT recognizes the influence of emotions on thoughts and behaviors. It does not have the same explicit emphasis on emotional regulation as DBT. CBT focuses on modifying cognitive processes to impact emotional experiences.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT on Treatment Structure

DBT includes individual therapy, group skills training, phone coaching, and therapist consultation teams. It offers a comprehensive treatment approach supporting and reinforcing across many domains. But, CBT may include individual therapy, group therapy, or even self-help formats.  It may involve a different comprehensive treatment structure than DBT, but it can also incorporate various techniques.

Mental Health Conditions Impacted by Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT

Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT are utilized to treat mental health conditions. But, they may have different levels of effectiveness and suitability for specific conditions. 

What Can DBT Help Treat?

Some mental health conditions DBT can treat:

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD): At first, DBT was for treating individuals with BPD. But it has shown significant effectiveness in reducing self-destructive behaviors. It also helps to treat emotional dysregulation and improve functioning.
  • Self-harm behaviors: DBT helps to reduce self-harm behaviors. Some of these behaviors include self-cutting, burning, and other forms of deliberate self-injury.
  • Chronic suicidal ideation: DBT includes specific strategies for managing chronic suicidal thoughts. It promotes the individual’s safety and stability.
  • Substance use disorders: DBT helps to treat substance use disorders. It also helps when co-occurring emotional dysregulation or self-harm behaviors occur.
  • Eating disorders: DBT is not the primary treatment approach for eating disorders. But it can help manage emotional dysregulation and promote healthier coping mechanisms. 

What Can CBT Help Treat?

Some mental health conditions CBT can help include:

  • Anxiety disorders: CBT helps treat anxiety disorders. They include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), specific phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Depression: CBT is a first-line treatment for depression by focusing on identifying and modifying negative thinking patterns. CBT also reduces negative beliefs and enhances problem-solving and behavioral activation.
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders: CBT for insomnia is a specialized form. It targets sleep difficulties by addressing underlying cognitive factors contributing to insomnia.
  • Phobias and panic disorders: CBT incorporates exposure therapy. It helps individuals confront and overcome symptoms of specific phobias and panic disorders.

Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Practices in Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT

Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT incorporate mindfulness and acceptance-based practices to varying degrees. However, DBT places a stronger emphasis on these practices compared to CBT. 

What Mindfulness and Acceptance Practices are in DBT?

DBT integrates mindfulness practices throughout its treatment framework. Mindfulness in DBT involves cultivating non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. This may include thoughts, emotions, sensations, and external experiences.  DBT incorporates acceptance-based practices within its treatment approach. It aligns with the dialectical philosophy of balancing acceptance and change.
The acceptance-based practices in DBT often include radical acceptance. Here, individuals let go of resistance towards finding ways to cope with experiences. 

What Mindfulness and Acceptance Practices are in CBT?

In CBT, mindfulness practices help to increase awareness and support cognitive restructuring. It allows for a more goal evaluation of the accuracy of negative thoughts.
Mindfulness is not as central to CBT as DBT. But some CBT approaches have incorporated mindfulness practices to enhance treatment outcomes. 

Emphasis on Therapeutic Relationship in Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT

Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT both recognize the importance of the therapeutic relationship. They both facilitate positive treatment outcomes. But, DBT places a stronger emphasis on the therapeutic relationship compared to CBT. 

The therapeutic relationship in DBT has the following characteristics: 

  • Therapist consultation team: DBT therapists receive support from a consultation team. This team-based approach ensures that therapists have support and can address their counter-transference. It enhances the therapeutic relationship with clients.
  • Support and validation: DBT therapists focus on providing support and validation to clients. They create a non-judgmental and empathetic space for the clients. The space enables the clients to feel understood, heard, and accepted. This validation helps foster security and trust in the therapeutic relationship.

What is the Emphasis on Therapeutic Relationship in CBT?

CBT also recognizes the importance of the therapeutic relationship. But its emphasis is less pronounced than in DBT. 

The therapeutic relationship in CBT has the following characteristics:

  • Time-limited and goal-oriented: CBT structure is a time-limited treatment with specific treatment goals. The therapeutic relationship in CBT focuses on achieving these goals within a time frame. This goal-oriented nature may influence the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship in CBT.
  • Collaborative nature: CBT is on a collaborative approach. Here, the therapist and the client work together. They establish goals and develop treatment plans. It also collaborates to identify and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors.

Evidence-Based Research Supporting Efficacy of Both Therapies in Treating Different Mental Health Conditions

In 2006, there was a review of the meta analyses of CBT. The review identified 16 quantitative reviews. These reviews include 332 clinical trials covering 16 disorders.2 CBT has increased in popularity over the last forty years. It enjoys strong empirical support, and the body of research into its efficacy expands.Several studies show the efficacy of CBT in treating childhood or adolescent aggression.3 It also showed its efficiency in treating anxiety, social anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even marital problems. 

What Other Studies Show Supporting Efficacy of Both Therapies?

There is a study based on the effectiveness evaluation of DBT treatment. The study includes its targeted effects on reduction of life-threatening behaviors.4 It explores the impact of DBT on various age groups versus other kinds of therapy. As professionals and clients face many more struggles in health disorders, we will see more and more evidence of how effective both DBT and CBT are in treating them. Trust in the proven methods of both therapies to assist you on your road to recovery. 

Combining or Integrating DBT and CBT

Combining or integrating DBT and CBT can be a powerful approach. It capitalizes on the strengths of both modalities. This integration is sometimes referred to as CBT-DBT integration. 

The following are some of the ways to combine DBT and CBT:

DBT-Informed CBT

DBT-informed CBT incorporates elements of DBT within a CBT framework. This integration involves integrating specific DBT strategies into CBT interventions. Some of these interventions are mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness skills. Incorporating these skills will enable therapists to enhance emotion regulation within a CBT model.

DBT Skills Training Within CBT

Therapists can incorporate DBT skills training modules into a CBT treatment framework. It involves teaching DBT skills, such as mindfulness alongside traditional CBT techniques.  This integration allows clients to develop a broader range of coping skills. It also enhances their ability to manage emotional experiences.

Stage-Based Approach

A stage-based approach integrates the sequential treatment stages of DBT and CBT. In this integration, CBT may target specific symptoms or disorders such as anxiety. Once individuals have acquired stability and symptom reduction, DBT can be in use.  DBT skills help to address emotional dysregulation, self-destructive behaviors, and interpersonal challenges.

Sequential Integration

DBT and CBT interventions are available in separate phases of treatment. For example, DBT may address immediate life-threatening behaviors and enhance emotion regulation skills. 

Once individuals have stability, CBT techniques may be present to target specific cognitive distortions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy vs CBT New Jersey

Benefits of Combining or Integrating DBT and CBT

Combining DBT and CBT can offer several benefits. They leverage the strengths of both modalities. The following are some of the benefits of combining DBT and CBT:

  • Relapse prevention: DBT’s focus is on skills training and coping strategies. These strategies can support individuals in maintaining progress and prevent relapse once they have completed the initial phase of treatment. Integrating DBT’s relapse prevention strategies with CBT’s cognitive restructuring will create an aftercare plan to help sustain progress beyond therapy.
  • Comprehensive treatment: Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT combine for a comprehensive treatment approach. It addresses various therapeutic targets. 
  • Targeted symptom reduction: CBT techniques can target specific symptoms associated with disorders, including anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Incorporating CBT strategies in the early stages of treatment helps to reduce symptoms. It also helps to build skills for long-term emotional regulation provided by DBT.

Treat Your Mental Health Conditions at True Life Care

Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT share similarities, yet they have different therapeutic relationships. The choice between DBT and CBT depends on the treatment needs of the individual. It is advisable to consult a mental health professional at True Life Care who will help you determine a suitable approach. True Life Care is a mental health facility offering various evidence-based interventions. These interventions include life skills education, stress management techniques, and group therapy. 

Reach Out and Begin Healing

At True Life Care Mental Health, we are here to aid your treatment and recovery. Contact us at True Life Care and begin your healing journey today! To learn more about Dialectical behavior therapy vs CBT in New Jersey, contact our admission office.


  1. https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584580/
  3. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1146&context=edpsychpapers
  4. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-018-1627-9

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