CBT vs DBT Therapy: What’s The Difference?

by | Last updated Jun 12, 2023 | Published on Jun 18, 2021 | Addiction Treatment | 0 comments


There are a lot of acronyms used in the addiction treatment community: IP (inpatient treatment), OP (outpatient treatment), EBP (evidence-based practice), MAT (medically-assisted treatment)—just to name a few. These terms might seem like a jumble of letters to the average person, but one little letter can mean a world of difference to those in recovery. A prime example of this is CBT vs DBT, which are two different types of therapy used in addiction treatment. They may seem very similar, but represent two unique therapy methods that differ in how they work, what their goal is, and who they work best for. 

CBT vs DBT: An Overview

CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy and is a type of psychotherapy (psychotherapy is also commonly referred to as “talk therapy” and is widely regarded as one of the most effective and widely used treatment methods for addiction treatment). No matter how “alternative” or atypical a drug rehab’s programs options might be, CBT is almost guaranteed to be a part of the rehabilitation process. DBT, which stands for dialectical behavioral therapy, is actually a specialized form of cognitive therapy and therefore is also a type of psychotherapy. 

Both CBT and DBT have the ultimate goal of helping individuals have greater control over their interactions with the environment around them. They are however based on different philosophies, which can make one form of treatment better suited for certain individuals. 

What Is CBT?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a popular type of therapy based on the Socratic Method and the belief that it is our thoughts (or more specifically, how we frame situations) that ultimately determine how we act and how we feel. As such, CBT focuses on identifying negative patterns in thinking and behavior to then change them. It relies on the use of logic and reason to gain control over one’s way of thinking, rather than emotion. 

Cognitive therapy has proven to be highly effective in addiction treatment, not only for overcoming addiction but for relapse prevention as well. CBT helps patients identify triggers and also prepares them on how to react if said triggers are encountered, providing practical solutions for their life in recovery. 

What Is DBT?

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a niche within cognitive therapy designed for individuals who have extreme emotional reactions, often which they find difficult to control. For this reason, DBT is the therapy approach of choice for treating severe mental illness such as personality disorders and stress disorders, or individuals with chronic suicidal tendencies. CBT can also be used to treat milder types of mental illness such as OCD, sleeping issues, phobias, and mild depression or anxiety. In dual diagnosis treatment, DBT, rather than CBT, is usually the therapy approach of choice. 

Because of the sensitive emotional state of dual diagnosis patients, DBT focuses on the validation of their feelings. DBT prioritizes techniques that allow patients to accept their feelings and thus, better manage them and minimize the likelihood of possible destructive behavior. Whereas cognitive therapy is based on reasoning to address (and ultimately change) specific behaviors, dialectical therapy is heavily rooted in mindful practices similar to those of Buddhism, with an emphasis on acceptance rather than change. 

Is CBT or DBT Right For Me?

The best way to determine whether cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy is the right choice for you is to see a mental health professional. Addiction treatment at a specialized facility will likely begin with some sort of evaluation that will determine which form of psychotherapy will work best for you. In many instances, both CBT and DBT are used simultaneously to tackle the complicated issue that is addiction. 

Looking for recovery treatment programs in Maryland? Learn more about the various types of programs available and the different levels of care offered by The Freedom Center.  

Written by: Nick B.

Nicholas B. is the Corporate Director of Admissions for our substance abuse and behavioral health company. Nick’s mission is to provide quality care to every person that reaches out regarding substance abuse or behavioral health questions. Knowledge of an ever-changing industry, compassion when dealing with people, and compliance in every decision are the forces that drive his personal and professional growth.

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