Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are often confused. While they share several aspects, there are significant differences. CBT focuses on identifying and changing thoughts. This focus on change comes at a time when the patient is vulnerable may be interpreted as invalidating and not supportive. DBT tries to balance acceptance with change strategies. This is considered a dialectic approach, as this work towards both change and acceptance seems contradictory.
DBT utilizes the underlying assumption that people have an emotional vulnerability which causes difficulty with emotion regulation. A lack of emotional regulation can lead to experiencing an invalidating environment and developing unhealthy strategies to cope. The problems that led to these problematic ways of coping are rarely the patient’s fault, but it is still the individual’s responsibility to make changes to find the life they want and deserve. DBT can help individuals learn and use skills in order to be more effective in their lives.
When DBT founder Dr. Marsha Linehan first began testing treatments for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, she found that traditional CBT alone was not as helpful to people with BPD because of its strong focus on change. She designed DBT to include some elements that were not traditionally part of CBT, such as a strong emphasis on mindfulness and acceptance. Since DBT was developed, more and more Cognitive Behavior Therapists have started to include some aspects of DBT in their practice, blurring the lines between DBT and CBT. There are also a number of new CBT options, called “third wave” Cognitive Behavioral Therapies.
Are you interested in DBT as a treatment option? Would you like more information about various behavior therapies? Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day to connect you to counselors knowledgeable about DBT and other treatment plans. Call now to get the information you need.