DBT and CBT: Demystifying Differences

What is the difference between DBT and CBT? Calabash speaker, Dr. Ella Brent, clearly explains aspects of DBT which are distinct from CBT, and which are uniquely suited to clients who struggle with self-harming behaviours associated with Borderline personality traits.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a therapeutic modality which suggests that thoughts and beliefs are at the root of emotions and behaviours. Therapists help patients to identify erroneous beliefs and thought patterns which underlie difficult feelings, and to challenge and modify these thoughts into more helpful, realistic ones. Key theoretical and clinical contributors include Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis. CBT has since been the subject of evidence-based research, and is considered to have strong applications in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress. Treatment is considered to be efficient, short-term, and targeted at symptom relief and measurable change in thoughts and behaviours.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy was developed in the 1980s by psychologist Marsha Linehan. DBT has some overlap with CBT, as there is a focus on the relationship between internal feelings and thoughts, and external behaviours, with the aim of changing impulsive, self-harming behaviours. Clients are encouraged to become more aware of the moment of pause between internal experiences and external behaviours, and to reach a state of mind called the wise mind, where they can think about their feelings, and make healthier choices about their external behaviours. In the last few decades, DBT has been widely applied in individual and group settings, to assist patients struggling with borderline personality traits and self-harming behaviours.

So, if DBT also aims to promote awareness of thoughts and feelings, and to modify external behaviours, what are some of the essential differences between these approaches?

Ella usefully highlights core unique aspects of DBT in distinction to other common therapeutic modalities, such as CBT.


If you enjoyed this short clip and would like to equip yourself with the theoretical tools behind DBT, see Ella's full video on DBT here.


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