What’s the Difference Between CBT and DBT?

by Jan 16, 20230 comments

The world of therapy is filled with a wide range of different acronyms to describe different disorders, as well as the treatment options for those disorders.

CBT, DBT, OCD, PTSD, and BPD. These are just a few of the different acronyms that you may come across when researching symptoms or treatment options.

With so many acronyms and such similar names between a lot of the disorders and different treatment options, how are you supposed to know which treatment plan is the best option for you, as well as your wants and needs?

Luckily, there’s no need to stress. No matter what your exact treatment option is, therapy is one of the best treatment options for a wide variety of different mental health disorders.

Let’s learn more about the differences between cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.

What Is CBT?

CBT stands for cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy is one of the most common types of treatment options. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts and behaviors have an influence on the way we feel. The idea behind the therapy is that if we change the way we think, our reaction to certain situations will make us feel better.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is most commonly used for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What Is DBT?

DBT stands for dialectical behavioral therapy. Dialectical behavioral therapy is a subset of cognitive-behavioral therapy that benefits individuals suffering from intense emotions and problematic behaviors.

Dialectical behavioral therapy is most commonly used for:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-harm or suicidal ideation
  • Sexual trauma
  • Substance abuse

The Differences

Although dialectical behavioral therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy, DBT and CBT have some differences.


The main goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to give patients the ability to recognize and help cope when their thoughts may be negative. In CBT, it’s all about observing, understanding, and reworking thought patterns into something more positive.

The main goal of dialectical behavioral therapy is to help patients better manage their emotions while regulating harmful behaviors. DBT is all about accepting emotions as they are and developing healthy emotional regulation.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing the way we think about certain things to influence the way we react to certain situations. Dialectical behavioral therapy focuses more on regulating those emotions, accepting painful emotions, and being mindful.


Another way that CBT and DBT differ is the time commitment. CBT usually consists of weekly therapy sessions, while DBT can include therapy, skills training, and coaching in between the therapy sessions.

How to Determine If CBT or DBT Are Right for You

After learning about cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and the differences between the two, you’re probably wondering which option is best for you.

One of the best ways to determine if CBT or DBT is best for you is by speaking with a mental health professional. A therapist will be able to work with you and go over your symptoms, history, and any goals that you may have for treatment. After an initial consultation, they’ll recommend the best course of action.

Next Steps

There are a ton of different treatment options out there. The decision to go to therapy can already feel like a lot. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to feel this way. A licensed and trained mental health professional will be able to work with you to address your concerns and help guide you toward the best treatment plan.

Interested in learning more about cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, or just therapy in general? Reach out to us today to schedule a appointment. We’ll work together to find the best fit for you.

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