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What’s the Difference in DBT vs CBT?

Have you asked the question, DBT vs CBT, and found yourself wondering which option is really right for your needs? Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most common types of treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders. Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is also used in this manner. Many people will find that drug and alcohol treatment centers, like Atlanta Recovery Center, offer and recommend both options. What’s the difference, and what should you know before choosing a location for care?

So, What’s the DBT vs CBT Difference?

Many rehab facilities use both programs. However, their creators designed them to address different needs. Traditionally, psychologists use CBT as a way of changing the focus of a person’s thought patterns to help the individual to stop thinking about drug use. When a person is exposed to CBT, they will spend time learning how to spot an unhealthy thought or one that’s distorted outside of what would be considered normal for other people. Then, they are taught how to replace those negative thoughts with more positive ones, therefore restructuring the thought patterns to achieve different goals.

DBT, on the other hand, is a way to help people who had borderline personality disorders. These disorders often include extreme emotions and interpersonal conflicts. In this method, then, our goal is to help you validate feelings in the moment. Then, you can accept them, and regulate them properly to avoid adverse outcomes.

How a Therapist Performs DBT vs CBT

When you consider DBT vs CBT, it is essential to look at how it is done. For example, when a person comes to a therapist with a problem or a particular concern, DBT tends to work very well. That is because it is very structured and requires a particular set of steps. For example, if a person visits a therapist because he or she is experiencing self-hate related to past trauma, they will work through the specific set of steps to accept what has happened and to validate those emotions.

CBT, on the other hand, requires more thinking and more actual work. In this case, a person must be vigilant to notice the negative thought patterns they are having. They then need to change that way of thinking. You do that in the moment and with a specific focus. That puts more of the pressure on the success of this treatment on the patient.

What Type of Care Is Best for You?

When you think about addiction and mental health disorders, the DBT vs CBT difference is important to note, but it doesn’t define the specific treatment right for any given person. When you visit us at Atlantic Recovery Center, our goal is to create a treatment plan for your needs. If you are coming to us for addiction treatment solutions, we want to create a customized treatment plan that fits your needs. Sometimes this will also include co-occurring disorder treatment in which both addiction and mental health care are addressed at the same time.

Most of our clients also need to consider the level of care they need beyond just these types of therapy. We may recommend:

At Atlantic Recovery Center, a key component of our focus is to provide you with information you need to make the right decisions for yourself. The DBT vs CBT debate is one you can have with our team to determine which is the best type of change of thought patterns for your needs. Our team is here to offer guidance to create a comprehensive treatment plan, no matter what you are up against within your addiction. Most often, both of these methods are a part of that treatment.

With so many different types of therapies, it can be confusing. The names rarely explain what stands out with one kind of therapy or where the focus of another type is. How can someone be sure about what type of therapy will work for their particular problem? During rehab, the two most often heard terms are CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). When it comes to CBT vs DBT, the two have some things in common. They also have some significant differences. Each has its place in any program, and each has been proven most effective with particular mental health issues.


CBT and DBT are essentially part of talk therapy. However, CBT is based on the principle that our thoughts create feelings. These feelings, in turn, dictate our behavior. The purpose of CBT is to discover the erroneous beliefs we are having that are leading to unhealthy behavior. DBT is a subtype of CBT. DBT is also based on the same thoughts to emotions to the behavior model and works to help the individual change their behavior. This is where the two types of therapy start to take slightly different paths.


CBT is an individual therapy. The therapist-patient relationship is much like that of student and teacher. The therapist helps the patient identify the disturbing thoughts. Then, the two work on ways to change those thoughts, thus reducing the stress involved. This process enables the individual to act differently. For example, a person feels that nobody will like him. This thought causes him to feel anxiety when meeting with other people, and he may either avoid such situations or use some drug or alcohol to tame the anxiety. CBT convinces the person that assuming nobody will like you is not a healthy way to think. Instead, you need to believe you are likable and that others will see this. This belief then reduces anxiety and allows you to go into the situation without needing a coping mechanism.

DBT combines both individual and group therapy. The patient-therapist relationship is more nurturing and on an equal basis. In this therapy, the focus isn’t on changing the thought as much as on improving the reaction. In DBT, the patient is to acknowledge the idea, understand it is real, and then determine a way to manage the emotion so that the reaction is appropriate. The focus is more on a relationship with society rather than the inward relationship of CBT. For example, you feel that someone is going to abandon you if they disagree, you accept that this is how you think because you have learned that you tend to over-react emotionally to such situations. So, you need to ask yourself how you can reduce your emotional reaction and get your thoughts across to the other person in a way that doesn’t damage the relationship.

CBT says your thoughts changing will change the pain. DBT says that the pain is there and it is real, but you can find a way to cope with it that is acceptable.


The individual therapies have both been proven effective but are better suited for different situations. DBT works better with borderline personality disorder. It is also useful for chronic suicidal thoughts and self-harming behavior. CBT is most useful for diseases such as depression and anxiety. The only way to know for sure which method is best for your particular circumstance is to work with a therapist who understands your personal history and needs.


At Atlantic Recovery Centeryour therapist will get to know you well enough to be able to choose which of the two therapies will work best. These are the two most popular forms of treatment used in a rehab program. If you or your loved one needs help with an addiction, contact 1-866-824-5193 today. At Atlantic Recovery Center, you can defeat addiction.

Are You Seeking Help for Addiction? Let Us Help You

Is DBT vs CBT the right option for you? Every person’s needs are different. At Atlanta Recovery Center, we work closely with you to understand what all of your needs are. Then we design an effective, comprehensive care plan for your needs. Call our compassionate counselors today at 1-866-824-5193 to learn more.