Difference Between CBT and DBT

Main Difference – CBT vs DBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are two major therapeutic modalities used in psychiatry (psychotherapy). Both CBT and DBT focus on making patients aware of their potentials and weaknesses, enhancing their capacity to face various challenges in lives on their own. However, it is important to distinguish these two therapeutic methods from each other, in order to choose the most suitable type of therapy for each patient, depending on their pathology and other requirements. The main difference between CBT and DBT is that CBT is a short-term process whereas DBT is a long term process.Difference Between CBT and DBT- infographic

What is CBT

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a well-organized, short term goal oriented therapy which focuses on the identification of an individual’s unusual ways of thinking or pathological conditions (anxiety, depression), which result in unethical behavioral ways.

Being one of the commonest types of psychotherapy, CBT is known to be a combination of cognitive and behavioral treatments. Its main objectives include the identification, analysis and proper re-organization of unhealthy and negative thoughts in people. It would ultimately help to cultivate positive attitudes resulting in enhanced quality of life. It also helps an individual to understand the interrelationship between his own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, which decide his overall personality. For example, if someone feels that people around him don’t like him or his ways (thoughts), he will tend to avoid social gatherings (behavior) and result in getting coated with feelings of loneliness, sadness and isolation (emotions). A person with this type of thinking pattern will probably end up with depression or some other psychological disturbances due to the vibes of negativity around him. CBT, used on such a patient will help him to identify the importance of using this interrelationship for his own benefit, by converting all the negative thoughts into positive ones, which will result in advantageous behavioral patterns.

Difference Between CBT and DBT

Basic tenets of CBT

What is DBT

DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), which is an evidence-based method of psychotherapy and a specific form of CBT, mainly targets on an individual’s emotional and social aspects. Owing to an initiation, which has been used to treat borderline personality disorder, DBT helps people to identify their capabilities and drawbacks in life, thereby enhancing their capacity to regulate emotions and cope up with the challenges faced in day to day life. Moreover, DBT is used in patients who are extremely ill with unacceptable behavioral patterns and intentions of self-harm or suicides.

DBT usually carries out an individual psychotherapy session and a group session on a weekly basis which educate people on the aspects of maintaining effective interpersonal relationships, efficient distress management, acceptance of the reality, regulation of emotions and thoughts along with mindfulness.

The patients who have initially tried and failed on CBT are known to be the ideal candidates for DBT; they will gain more benefits by the customized methods of treatment which are used as a combination of effective modalities of CBT with key target areas of DBT.Key Difference - CBT vs DBT

Difference Between CBT and DBT


CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an action-oriented form of psychosocial therapy that assumes that maladaptive, or faulty thinking patterns cause maladaptive behavior and negative emotions.

DBT: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy which was originally developed  to help better treat borderline personality disorder and chronically suicidal individuals.


CBT: Anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are some of the psychiatric disturbances which benefit the most from Cognitive behavioral therapy.

DBT: DBT mainly targets people with severe psychological issues such as suicidal or self-harm motives and multiple, complex difficulties in life (abusive or narcissistic relationships).

Time Period

CBT: CBT is a short term, goal- oriented therapy.

DBT: DBT is a long term process.


CBT: CBT helps to identify, analyze and re-organize unhealthy and negative thoughts in people.

DBT:  An individual who is having Dialectical behavioral therapy will get psychotherapy (talk therapy) on a weekly basis, along with a group session which trains on positive interpersonal relationships, stress management, accepting the reality and proper control of emotions.

Image Courtesy:

“Depicting basic tenets of CBT” By Urstadt – Photoshop (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

“Dialectical Behavior Therapy Cycle EN” By MargaritaJP – Own work (Public Domain)

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music