CBT vs DBT: What’s the Difference & What Do They Treat Best?

19% of adults in the US suffer from a mental health condition. When it comes to treating mental health conditions, there are a variety of options available. Normally a combination of medical drugs and therapies are used to treat a patient. 

There are a few types of talking therapies, but in this article, we will focus on CBT vs DBT.


DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It’s used to treat people with personality disorders like borderline personality disorder.

How Does it Work?

In a DBT session, the therapist does not become challenging. They support the decisions of the patient. 

They will then explain a better decision, and why it’s a better decision. It’s thought that this explanation will elicit a change in behavior the next time the patient comes up against this situation. 

What Can it Treat?

DBT is targeted to treat people that have a personality disorder. 

Often, these people have many behaviors that need changing. If they are pushed too hard, they’ll likely push back by closing off or becoming angry. A DBT therapist needs to be very skilled in developing open communication between them and the patient. 

What Skills Do You Learn?

DBT aims to change thought patterns and processes. It should help the patient see the world differently, and process other people’s actions differently. 

People who require DBT have often had a string of unhealthy relationships in the past. Their DBT therapists might be the first positive relationship in a patient’s life. Other healthy relationships can be developed from this first relationship. 


CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It can be used to treat a variety of mental health conditions from anxiety, depression, or general stress. 

How Does it Work?

CBT moves quickly from one stage to the next to “re-train” patients’ thought patterns. The therapist will discuss an issue the patient faced during the week and teach them tactics to deal with the problem. 

They will also discuss negative thoughts or feelings associated with this problem. A CBT therapist will challenge negative ideas or thought processes. Some patients may see this as a personal challenge and decide that CBT isn’t for them. 

What Can it Treat?

CBT can be used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, though it depends on the individual person. In order for CBT to work, the patient must participate in sessions and do their homework outside of sessions. 

What Skills Do You Learn?

CBT is designed to reduce negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones. People who suffer from depression, for example, may tell themselves that they are worthless and unlikable. 

CBT aims to change these thoughts by identifying why you feel this way and replacing them with good thoughts instead. 

CBT vs DBT: What Suits You?

If you think you need therapy, discuss it with your healthcare provider to weigh CBT vs DBT for your individual circumstances. 

Whichever therapy is right for you, either will get you back on track to living a normal life while managing your mental health condition. 

For more information on mental health treatment, contact us