In addiction treatment and mental health treatment, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are frequently utilized to assist in the recovery of suffering clients. Both are some of the most common and best-known treatment approaches used in the treatment of a wide variety of mental health and behavioral health disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy both have the potential to change a multitude of unhealthy feelings and behaviors.  These techniques frequently change the lives of clients who seek it.

In each therapy session, there’s a chance for change. However, not that many people know what goes into these two renowned therapies, nor what the differences are between them. Although sometimes they are used in conjunction with one another, they are not the same and shouldn’t be used interchangeably in conversation.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

When someone thinks of the term “therapy,” they usually imagine those scenes in movies. For example, they might picture the generic scene where the main character is seen lying on a leather couch, positioned directly across the room from the academic-looking shrink in a mahogany-draped office asking “And how does that make you feel?”

We could call this Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or “talk therapy”. However, most movies highly misrepresent CBT, what it entails, the exercises included in its utilization, and how effective it can be. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy isn’t merely a man or woman dressed in expensive clothing, asking someone how they “feel”; CBT is much, much more than this stereotype, and has the capability to produce incredible results.

CBT is a hands-on and short-term treatment. It can be continued long-term but remains very goal-oriented. In individual therapy sessions with a practitioner of CBT, you can expect the following:

  • A communication-based therapeutic model
  • A safe, comfortable setting to express your emotions 
  • Support from an unbiased person

CBT has the (high) potential to:

  • Relieve symptoms of mental illness
  • Cope with uncomfortable emotions
  • Identify unhealthy or destructive thought patterns
  • Improve communication with loved ones
  • Learn how to communicate your feelings properly
  • Allow you to identify your feelings
  • Social skills and social anxiety
  • Cope with grief

CBT may help improve:

To practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one must attain multiple licenses and pass various board exams. Therapists who practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are regulated by the Board of Psychological Examiners of their region, a group of mediators that enforce the ethics of the business on psychologists.

Orange County Mental Health Residential Treatment Facility CBT and DBT

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, just like CBT, involves working one-on-one with a therapist who helps treat a clients’ mental illness when it is becoming debilitating to them. DBT has its roots in CBT methods. Psychological professionals developed DBT because they believed that CBT alone wasn’t “enough” for some patients – some clients needed something more.

There are critical differences between CBT and DBT. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy involves a concept called mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice and philosophy that helps people become especially aware of the emotions they experience in any given moment, despite how overwhelming they may seem.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has recognized DBT as a beneficial treatment modality for those with a variety of mental illnesses. Just like CBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has proven to assist in the successful recoveries from many mood disorders, anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders, depressive disorders, and stress-related disorders. However, DBT also has the potential to help people with serious personality disorders. 

DBT and Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are long-term mental illnesses that involve a repeating set of common behaviors and thoughts that are often extremely destructive to those with the disease, as well as those around the disordered person. A personality disorder that DBT has shown to be extremely beneficial for is something called Borderline Personality Disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder involves a prolonged pattern of unstable moods, suicidal ideation, extreme fear of abandonment, self-destructive behaviors, self-harm, and much more.

According to an article by, “DBT is derived from a philosophical process called dialectics. Dialectics is based on the concept that everything is composed of opposites, and that change occurs when one opposing force is stronger than the other, or in more academic terms—thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. 

Dialectics makes three underlying assumptions:

  1. All things are interconnected.
  2. Change is constant and inevitable.
  3. Opposites can be integrated to form a closer approximation of the truth.”

In DBT, someone with a severe and distressful mental illness can find solace, wisdom, and manifest tangible recovery from their disease. They will learn coping skills and how to practice mindfulness, practice emotional regulation, learn how to interact with others more effectively, and discover how to form better bonds as a result.

Whether one chooses to try DBT, CBT, or both treatment modalities to assist in their recovery from a mental illness, they are more than likely to find benefit. Often, when these practices are used in alliance with other forms of treatment for mental illnesses, such as medication, patients find they yield rather high results. Recovery is possible for those who seek it.