According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, 9.5% of U.S. adults received counseling or therapy to improve mental wellness. Sometimes taking that first step to manage your mental health is the most difficult. You may not know what to expect. You may not know what kind of therapy is best for you. The unknowns can cause anxiety around receiving treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are two of the most effective methods for treating mental health problems. They are evidence-based approaches that focus on changing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT and DBT are some of the most common types of therapy that are used in today’s practices.
What Is CBT?
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps you to change the way you think. It can be used to treat a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and issues relating to self-harm. CBT involves working with your therapist to identify negative thought patterns or behaviors and change them. This means examining your thoughts to see if they are helpful or unhelpful. For example: “I’m bad at everything” is an unhelpful thought; a positive alternative is “I’m not good at everything, but there are some things I am good at.”
CBT helps you reframe your thinking pattern, which in turn, results in a more positive attitude. It helps create new thought pathways in the brain and reprogram the negative thinking patterns involved with depression and anxiety. Since CBT is a directive therapy, the therapist takes the lead and teaches clients how to create efficient coping mechanisms for a variety of issues.
Some examples of CBT techniques might include:
- Cognitive restructuring or reframing
- Guided discovery
- Exposure therapy
- Journaling and thought recording
- Behavioral experiments
- Relaxation and stress reduction techniques
What Is DBT?
DBT is a form of behavioral therapy that has been adapted for people with mental health problems. According to Psychotherapy Academy, it was developed by Marsha Linehan. She realized that traditional forms of therapy did not help many of the people she worked with. These clients often had suicidal tendencies or struggled to regulate their emotions and responded better to a more structured approach.
DBT has four key elements that are used to help manage painful emotions and help decrease relationship problems
- Interpersonal effectiveness: A method for encouraging assertive and self-respectful communication with others used to help strengthen relationships
- Emotional Regulation: A method for a person to change and regulate their strong emotions, which leads to fewer troubles in their daily lives
- Distress tolerance: A strategy for increasing tolerance and acceptance of unpleasant feelings rather than trying to suppress or ignore them
- Mindfulness: A typical therapy that emphasizes being in the now and having the capacity to accept feelings without judgment
Through these four key elements, DBT helps people learn skills that they may apply in a variety of circumstances. By providing people with the tools they need to exercise emotional management, this technique and the skills learned help individuals live manageable, happy lives that also improve their interpersonal connections.
How Are CBT and DBT Used to Treat Mental Health Problems?
To help you better understand the differences between CBT and DBT, it’s important to know how they’re used by therapists and clients.
CBT is a relatively short-term treatment that focuses on specific problems. For example, a person with depression can work with a therapist using CBT to learn how to manage their negative thoughts, master relaxation techniques, and develop positive self-talk. A client may only need a few sessions of CBT before beginning to experience relief from their symptoms.
DBT is typically offered over longer periods of time, typically one year or more. It targets multiple issues at once: both your thoughts and behaviors. The goal is for you to discover more effective ways of coping with difficult situations by learning new skills such as emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.
What Is the Difference Between CBT and DBT?
CBT is a general term for a type of psychotherapy that helps people identify and correct negative or harmful thoughts. It’s often used to treat anxiety disorders and depression, but it can also be used to treat other mental health issues.
DBT was created based on the principles of CBT, which means it’s based on the idea that you can change your behavior by changing your thoughts. The goal of DBT is not just to reduce symptoms; it’s also supposed to help you build emotional resilience to better cope with life’s challenges in the future.
Finding a Good CBT or DBT Therapist
Finding a good therapist who uses CBT or DBT is important. The first step is to ask people who have had experience with the therapist: What do they think? Are they happy with their experience? Do they recommend the therapist’s services, and would they use that practitioner again?
When searching for a good therapist, call and ask if they specialize in DBT or CBT. Asking if the therapist has had experience dealing with your concerns can verify that they will be able to help you in the way that you need. It is also important to find a therapist that has openings around your schedule.
Remember that choosing a therapist is a personal choice. Therapists are there for you, and a therapist that works for another person may not work well with you. It is important for you to trust them and connect with them so you feel comfortable speaking with them during your sessions.
CBT and DBT are effective in treating mental health problems. They’re both based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected. For example, negative thoughts about yourself can make you feel bad about yourself, which could lead to behaving in unhealthy ways.
CBT teaches you how to change these patterns by challenging them with new information or exercises, such as thinking of one thing each day that makes you happy. DBT works similarly but specifically targets emotions like fear or sadness by teaching skills like mindfulness, meditation, or distress tolerance techniques.
Both therapies involve weekly sessions with a therapist plus homework assignments between sessions focused on changing specific behaviors related to your goals for treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, call Acera Health for more information on our treatment methods at (949) 647-4090.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.