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There are numerous treatment options to consider when an individual is experiencing issues with mental health and other daily functioning. Every treatment has specific, targeted goals that work to address conditioned behavior or distressing emotions. To know what therapy treatment is right for you, it is important to understand what options are available. 

A common traditional therapy that is heavily utilized in the mental health field is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, also referred to as “talk therapy”, is when an individual speaks openly about their feelings and behaviors with a trained therapist. During psychotherapy sessions, a therapist will often lead the conversation by learning about the person’s life experiences, whether they are current or past problems. As the conversation continues, a therapist will help to make connections about the person’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings and provide meaningful insight. 

Under the umbrella of psychotherapy are two distinct subtypes of therapy: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). These two therapies share many similarities, as they both seek to uncover deep-rooted trauma or unhealthy patterns of behavior. Here we are going to take a look at what sets these two therapies apart from one another.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy is traditional psychotherapy that focuses on exploring the connections between a person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. CBT can be viewed as more of a general term, as there are several therapies that developed with CBT principles. By addressing an individual’s unhealthy cognitive patterns, an individual and therapist will be able to create healthier ways of thinking that are constructive and beneficial. The main goal of CBT is to identify a person’s false beliefs and to restructure those beliefs so that they are no longer cause distressing thoughts. Individuals experiencing CBT are instructed with homework between sessions where they can replace negative thoughts with more positive ones in their daily life. 

CBT aims to treat distressing emotional responses as well. For CBT to show results, there must be a good client-therapist relationship. When a person feels more comfortable with their therapist, they are more likely to trust them. Authenticity must be encouraged in these therapy sessions.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy uses a CBT-heavy focus, but the main difference is that it stresses acceptance of uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. DBT is actually a type of CBT, structured to identify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. This type of therapy allows a person to create a gradual plan for change by coming to terms with troubling emotions that they struggle with. The therapist guides a client to find a balance between accepting their struggles and encouraging change. A therapist will also introduce new coping skills and mindfulness practices to the individual so they are equipped with the tools and resources they need to improve their own unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. As with CBT, individuals experiencing DBT are typically instructed to put these new methods of thinking into practice through trial and error between DBT sessions. 

DBT was originally developed as a treatment for borderline personality disorder because it helps an individual to accept their past and present emotions, especially when emotions may be severe. When a person has intense patterns of reactions and behaviors, this likely means that they developed from overwhelming feelings of pain and rejection. DBT teaches individuals to focus on mindfulness techniques and accept things how they are, instead of suffering in pain and trying to change the outcome of everything. 

The Difference In Treatment Methods

The philosophy in CBT uses critical thinking to assess reasoning and logic in a given situation. For people that suffer from anxiety, using logic can help to ground thinking instead of considering the “what ifs.” Other people that struggle with self-worth are told to look at the facts and encouraged to develop realistic beliefs about their existence. By contrast, DBT uses a mindfulness-heavy focus and does not aim to necessarily alter thoughts and beliefs. Instead, DBT empowers an individual to understand that pain is experienced by everyone, and accepting everything as it is will help bring peace to one’s mind. 

Both of these therapies have been shown to help individuals suffering from a range of distressing mental health symptoms and conditions. If you are considering cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy, consider talking with a mental health professional to see which therapy is the best fit for you. Your symptoms, treatment history, and target goals will all be considered when treatment is recommended. Regardless of the treatment, both therapies will help you increase self-awareness, identify destructive behaviors, and form healthier and more meaningful coping mechanisms. 

There are a variety of treatment options available for those suffering from mental health problems, with the most common being traditional psychotherapy. Under this umbrella term exists cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on identifying connections between cognitive functioning and outward behaviors. Dialectical behavioral therapy is a type of CBT that empowers a client to accept all distressing thoughts and emotions through a mindful lens. Both therapies have been shown to guide individuals to healthier patterns of their thoughts and behaviors. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we utilize traditional psychotherapies such as CBT and DBT along with holistic therapy methods to ensure your needs get met. We understand the importance of a strong client-therapist relationship and encourage empathy among our clients and staff. We want to foster healthy emotions and coping mechanisms within you. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, give us a call today at (760) 492-6509.

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