Difference Between CBT and DBT


CBT and DBT refer to two types of therapeutic methods used in counseling and psychology that have some differences between them. In the field of psychology, the psychologists study the mental processes and behavior of human beings. Through counseling, the psychologists and the counselors make an attempt to use the theoretical knowledge practically as they guide and assists clients in a variety of issues. First, let us define these two therapeutic methods. CBT refers to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. DBT refers to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Through this article let us examine the differences between these two therapies.

What is CBT?

As mentioned above, CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT can be used for a range of mental illnesses and conditions such as depression, addiction, anxiety and phobias. This highlights that it is used for specific issues. Through this therapy, the thoughts and feeling of the client are studied so that it will allow the counselor and client to comprehend the client’s behavioral patterns.

CBT is a very popular therapeutic method in counseling psychology, mainly because it is not only effective but also short term as well. Through CBT, the client can identify maladaptive behavior and then change such behavior. In Cognitive behavioral therapy, the individual gains an understanding of his problem. This increases his awareness of destructive behavior and also ways of dealing with such behaviors.

Cognitive behavioral therapy consists of a number of therapies. Here are some examples for CBT.

Now, let us focus on the different steps that have to be followed in CBT. First, the counselor assists the client to comprehend the problem. It is important to state that this is a combined effort of the client and the counselor. As the second step, the focus is on behavioral patterns that contribute to the problem that has already been identified. As the final step, the client works with the counselor in changing the maladaptive behavior and learning new behavioral patterns. DBT, however, is a bit different to CBT.

Difference Between CBT and DBT

Basic Tenents of CBT

What is DBT?

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. This was found by the psychologist Marsha Linehan. Originally, DBT was used to treat individuals who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. Now, it has expanded and is used for other mental illnesses as well such as eating disorders, PTSD or else Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Psychologists believe that the foundation for DBT lies in the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In this sense, it is a modification and an improvement of CBT.

This therapy mainly focuses on the psychosocial aspects. For instance, the emotional stimulation of some people in various situations (in relationships, with friends and family) is much higher than what is considered as normal. This can result in emotional swings such as extreme anger. Through DBT, necessary skills are inculcated so that the individual learns to cope with these emotional swings in an effective manner.

DBT has two components. They are the individual sessions and also the group sessions. Having group sessions is an added advantage for the individual because it allows him to learn specific skills. In DBT, four main sets of skills are included. They are,

  • Reality acceptance
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Emotional regulation
  • Mindfulness

This clearly shows that CBT and DBT are different therapies, even though, the foundation for DBT lies in CBT.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy Cycle

What is the difference between CBT and DBT?

Definitions of CBT and DBT:

CBT: CBT refers to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is an effective, short term therapeutic method in counseling psychology.

DBT: DBT refers to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is a category of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a modification and an improvement of CBT.

Characteristics of CBT and DBT:


For DBT, the foundation lies in CBT.

Main Focus:

CBT: CBT focuses mainly on identifying and changing the maladaptive behavior.

DBT: In DBT, main focus can be somewhat difficult in certain situations. Hence, it focuses on acceptance of those features that cannot be changed.


CBT: CBT is used for a variety of mental conditions.

DBT: DBT is mostly used for Borderline Personality Disorder, Eating Disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a few more disorders.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Basic Tenents of CBT by  Urstadt (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy Cycle via Wikicommons (Public Domain)