Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Category: Mental Health
9 minute read.

Psychotherapy – also referred to as talk therapy – is a common element of many mental health treatment programs. When you reach out for help to overcome disordered eating struggles or to learn to better manage symptoms related to various mental health conditions, treatment specialists at The Los Angeles Outpatient Center will use one (or more) of these talk therapy models to help you address behavioral problems and any co-occurring illness (physical health, other mental health conditions or addiction) that may accompany your illness. While cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) share some similarities, there are also differences in the treatment models.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is a form of psychotherapy. Many research studies have shown that CBT effectively treats a wide range of mental health and addiction-related conditions. Some studies have indicated that CBT is more effective than other behavioral therapies when included in a therapeutic plan to address mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and severe mental illness. There are several research studies that show CBT can produce significant improvement in quality of life and overall functioning for people struggling with mental illness. In some cases, CBT has proven to be equally as effective, if not more effective, than other therapy models or psychiatric medications.

It is essential to note that the effects of CBT and the advances of its therapy model have been made based on both clinical practice and significant research. There is a comprehensive collection of scientific research showing that the methods applied during CBT sessions have produced a notable change in patients participating in therapy.

The goal of CBT is to help you learn to recognize and examine distorted thinking patterns that lead to mental health problems. CBT encourages evaluating thoughts and perceptions. This allows you to better understand the root causes of mental health conditions and co-occurring addiction disorders. As therapy progresses, you will use newly developed critical thinking and problem-solving skills to change harmful thoughts and behaviors that promote ongoing addiction into positive and healthy behaviors.

CBT works in the “present” to examine your current circumstances rather than the events or situations that led to your mental health challenges. The goal of CBT sessions is to help you learn to move forward and develop healthier and safer methods for managing stressors and triggers. Therapy sessions aim to help patients achieve significant change in their behaviors and actions. Some strategies used as part of therapy include facing fears (instead of avoiding them), practicing calming and relaxation skills, and using role-playing to prepare for triggering circumstances.

What can CBT Treat?

CBT has proven effective with a wide range of mental and physical health struggles. Some of the most common conditions addressed using CBT include depression, anxiety disorders, disordered eating, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders.

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Although CBT is often used as the primary term to describe a type of treatment, CBT is actually an umbrella term used to describe several therapies. Each of the therapy models classified under the CBT umbrella focus on behavioral or cognitive theories. Although each type of therapy has a unique focus, they all share common elements as well. These include goal setting, focusing on the present, and learning about the connection between feelings, thinking, and human behaviors. Some of the more common types of CBT include Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Cognitive Therapy (CT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy or DBT is a form of CBT. DBT sessions aim to teach participants healthier and safer ways to cope with and manage their stress and emotions. It also helps you learn how to improve your relationships with loved ones and peers.

DBT was initially developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it has since been successfully adapted to address a variety of other conditions, including substance use disorders; however, bipolar disorder is often the primary diagnosis for someone using DBT in their treatment plan.

During DBT sessions at The Los Angeles Outpatient Center area mental health treatment facility, patients work with our treatment team to resolve the conflicts between self-acceptance and change. This allows you to achieve positive changes and relief from mental health symptoms. Dialectical behavior therapy is heavily based on CBT; however, there is one primary difference. A vital part of the DBT process includes offering validation and accepting uncomfortable thoughts instead of struggling with them. This helps participants become more open to the idea of change, allowing them to work with their provider to develop a gradual plan to achieve their recovery goals.

During DBT sessions, the provider works to help you find a sense of balance between acceptance and change. This process also helps you learn how to develop and reinforce vital skills, including coping skills and mindfulness practices that will be vital to ongoing relapse and trigger management in the future.

Like CBT, DBT is also highly effective for patients seeking to address dual diagnosis conditions. Studies have shown dialectical behavior therapy is helpful for individuals struggling with mental health challenges and substance use disorders. Actively participating in treatment and practicing the skills learned in between sessions is proven highly effective in producing notable and long-lasting change.

Like CBT, DBT is more effective for some conditions than for others. DBT is highly effective for borderline personality disorder. It has also shown effectiveness for people struggling with self-harming behaviors (cutting, suicidal ideation, etc.) and sexual trauma.

Other forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

While CBT and dialectical behavior therapy are the two most familiar (and commonly used) behavioral therapies, there are other CBT therapy models that are used to address particular mental health conditions.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive processing therapy is commonly used to help patients struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. CPT therapy lasts for twelve sessions and is beneficial for patients struggling with issues related to trust and safety. As treatment progresses, patients learn how to challenge harmful thoughts (cognitive distortions), which may worsen anxiety and anger leading to reminders of their trauma.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is another form of cognitive behavior therapy. It is described as an “action-oriented” approach, meaning it encourages people to take action to manage their symptoms. REBT therapy sessions focus on helping patients address and manage the irrational beliefs and emotions that lead to their symptoms. REBT follows the idea that negative things happen when you have irrational or harmful beliefs about yourself (or the environment around you). Rational emotive behavior therapy encourages you to acknowledge your irrational thoughts and then change the negative thinking patterns to overcome the symptoms of a range of mental health conditions.

According to the theory behind the REBT treatment model, behavior, thoughts, and emotions are interconnected. If you understand how the beliefs, behaviors, and feelings you have about situations or events affect you, you are better able to manage them in a safe, healthy, positive, and more realistic way.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy is a form of CBT that focuses on identifying and altering distorted thinking patterns, behaviors, and emotional responses.

CBT vs. DBT for Mental Health Treatment

Mental health conditions respond to treatment in different ways. Although one therapeutic model may help address the symptoms of a particular illness, it may worsen the symptoms of something else. It is essential for your treatment provider to understand how particular therapy models may help or hinder one’s recovery. Because there are so many different types of therapy, it can be hard to determine which therapy model is best for you.

The most effective way to ensure you receive the best treatment to meet your needs is to talk to a member of the treatment team at The Los Angeles Outpatient Center. They will talk with you about your mental health symptoms, treatment history, and your needs and goals as you begin your journey towards recovery. After conducting a thorough assessment, they can help you determine the next steps on your treatment journey.

It is also important to consider your diagnosis. As mentioned above, each mental health diagnosis responds differently to different treatment models. It is important to choose the therapy model that has proven effective in addressing the symptoms of your specific diagnosis. Suppose you have a dual diagnosis (more than one mental health condition or a mental health condition and a substance use disorder). In that case, you may find that a combination of CBT and DBT may be the most successful for you.

Finally, consider your history with mental health treatment. If you have completed a mental health treatment program in the past and experienced a relapse in symptoms, you may feel hesitant to return to therapy. Remember that not all therapy models are the best fit for all conditions. If you continue to struggle with symptoms related to a mental health diagnosis, talk to your treatment provider about how a different therapy model may help you achieve a better treatment outcome.

There are many different types of CBT. With so many options, it can be challenging to determine the best therapy model for you. CBT and DBT are widely used to address an extensive range of mental health and dual diagnosis condition. To learn more about CBT and DBT at our LA area mental health treatment center, contact us at The Los Angeles Outpatient Center. Our admissions team is here to help you learn more about how we can help you put mental health struggles in the past. Let us help you begin your journey towards emotional and spiritual wellness today.