How Do DBT and CBT Differ When Treating Trauma?

How Do DBT and CBT Differ When Treating Trauma?

Psychotherapy is a popular and highly recommended treatment for various mental health disorders. Two of these recommended treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Both therapies are commonly used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as they are very similar. However, there are key differences between the two that may or may not make them both applicable to an individual experiencing trauma symptoms.

What Is CBT?

Also commonly referred to as “talk therapy,” CBT involves discussing your problems with a trained, licensed therapist to help reframe your thoughts and mindset. People who have PTSD may feel like they are stuck in a permanent negative cycle. They may have a mental loop of negative self-talk that says, “nothing will ever get better.” A therapist can use CBT techniques rooted in logic and reason to turn those thoughts around, so the negatives no longer control you.

What Are the Techniques Used in CBT?

There are a number of techniques used in CBT sessions. A therapist may use some or all of them in a session, depending on the type of help you need. A few of these techniques include:

  • Identifying negative thoughts: Identifying your thoughts and feelings in certain situations can help you and your therapist understand how they contribute to specific behaviors.
  • Learning and practicing new skills: When you detect a negative thought pattern forming, CBT can help you learn a healthy coping mechanism to apply in real-life scenarios.
  • Goal setting: One of the most important steps in trauma recovery, your therapist will help you develop both short-term and long-term goals for your treatment. The process of getting there is just as important as the outcome.
  • Problem-solving: Trauma symptoms often have a specific cause, for example, fear of driving after surviving a tragic accident. CBT can help you identify and solve those problems that result from trauma and reduce the negative impact on your life.
  • Self-monitoring: You will be encouraged to track your progress outside of therapy sessions, such as by journaling your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to certain situations throughout the week.

What Is DBT?

DBT is a form of CBT. This therapy focuses on helping people with trauma learn to better interact with their surroundings in less emotional ways. DBT was initially developed to treat borderline personality disorder but has since been adapted to treat other mental health disorders as well. Based on mindfulness techniques to help re-train your mind when facing emotional challenges, DBT is useful for stopping harmful behaviors, dealing with suicidal ideations, and managing cravings.

What Are the Techniques Used in DBT?

There are a number of techniques used in DBT sessions, including:

  • Mindfulness techniques: “Mindfulness” refers to the ability to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment rather than reliving the past. It’s a skill that takes lots of practice but allows those struggling with trauma to interpret the events around them in a positive way.
  • Learning to tolerate stress: We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change how we respond to them. DBT can help you take positive steps forward based on what is within your control.
  • Regulate emotions: People suffering from trauma can feel negative emotions in an intense, disruptive way. DBT can help you identify these feelings and reduce the vulnerable mental and behavioral response to them so they don’t overpower and control you.
  • Group therapy: This form of therapy may benefit some clients and not others. Depending on your individual needs, you may find it helpful to process your feelings with other people who are experiencing the same things.

What Are the Differences Between CBT and DBT?

While CBT and DBT are both used to help people address and reframe negative thoughts and behavioral patterns, CBT focuses more on thought patterns than DBT. CBT helps to identify cognitive distortions of reality and how we filter information. DBT places greater emphasis on the relationship between acceptance and change. CBT takes place primarily in one-on-one sessions with a therapist, while DBT involves group therapy to help people practice some of the skills they are learning.

What Should Clients Know About CBT and DBT?

Both therapeutic techniques are helpful, but you should know that going into either type of therapy requires a lot of work. Your therapist will likely assign some out-of-office “homework,” such as journaling, to help track your progress. It’s also essential to come to sessions prepared to talk about issues that may be emotionally difficult. While your therapist will work with you at your own pace and not pressure you to move faster than you’re comfortable with, you will be encouraged to share your thoughts, feelings, and other reactions to the event that caused your trauma. As you share these complex thoughts, you may be encouraged to look at them from a different perspective.

Which Technique Is Better for Trauma Treatment?

As someone looking for relief from trauma symptoms, it’s natural to want to know which therapy method is better for your recovery process. CBT and DBT together can be useful in treating multiple mental and behavioral issues by identifying and changing negative thoughts and actions. While CBT is the more popular of the two, a discussion with your therapist can help you make an educated decision.

Dealing with trauma can be challenging. At Crownview Co-Occurring Institute, our licensed, compassionate therapists, can help you learn skills to combat your heavy thoughts, emotions, and negative behavior patterns. You can also learn how to set goals for yourself to start looking forward to the future rather than perpetually living in the past. While it may seem difficult, talking about your trauma is a significant step toward the goal of healing. Your therapist can help you determine whether cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, or both are appropriate for your unique situation and needs. At Crownview Co-Occurring Institute, we can set you up with the right therapist who is uniquely skilled to help you in your situation. We have helped many people change the course of their lives and live healthier. You too can be one of them. To learn more, call us today at (760) 477-4754.

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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors Entwined

One of the most commonly used psychotherapy methods is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy is proven effective for treating multiple levels of mental health disorders, including substance use disorders (SUDs), numerous psychiatric disorders, and as a secondary treatment to medication for mental health disorders. The CBT approach has been revised and reviewed for children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families.

CBT is a type of talk therapy that allows clients to identify negative thought processes and reframe their mindset and behaviors. It is different from other psychotherapies because it is a problem-oriented approach that focuses on finding solutions for current issues instead of bringing up the past as other therapies tend to do.

The Cognitive Model

CBT is founded on a direct and rational model of the relationships between cognition, emotion, and behavior. There are three aspects of cognition emphasized, including:

  • Automatic thoughts: Thoughts that form the individual’s emotions and actions in response to events. Examples include ideas that are exaggerated, distorted, mistaken, or unrealistic.
  • Cognitive distortions: Mistakes in judgment that lead to inaccurate conclusions. Examples include overgeneralization, minimization, disqualifying positive experiences, or emotional reasoning.
  • Underlying beliefs: Beliefs that shape the insight and interpretation of events. They are considered templates for information processing that motivate the most outward level of automatic thoughts.

Uses for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT can help mend many problems, making it one of the go-to treatment methods for individuals unable to take medications. Below we will discuss the different situations where CBT has proven beneficial.


According to the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorder, with 12-month frequency rates of 21.3% in the United States and 11.6% worldwide. Countless scientific studies have shown that CBT interventions for anxiety disorders result in significant improvement by reducing symptoms and reframing thought patterns. Counselors help their clients recognize the root of the problem and how to shift their mindset, which is aggressively increasing their anxiety.


CBT is one of the most evidence-based treatments for depression. Depression is also one of the most common mental disorders. When depressive disorders are concerned, CBT is a helpful tool in treating individuals by concentrating on the overall mood and acknowledging harmful and unhealthy behaviors associated with depression.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

SUDs are highly prevalent and can be challenging to treat, but CBT has proven beneficial in helping those who struggle with addictions. Scientific studies continue to show how effective CBT is because it focuses on managing the cycle of addiction. Furthermore, it is even more effective when combining other treatment methods with CBT, such as motivational interviewing or contingency management.

Eating Disorders

CBT is one of the most beneficial treatment methods to treat the core psychopathology of eating disorders. CBT is highly effective when treating eating disorders such as binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia. The various techniques used in CBT can work together to change the mental processes and behaviors that lead to unhealthy eating habits.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

CBT is highly effective for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The success response rates range from 50% to 70% in clients treated for OCD with CBT methods. Individuals struggling with OCD have obsessive beliefs that transform into compulsive behaviors to cope with their thoughts. When applying CBT for OCD, the client obtains coping skills and insights to manage obsessive or compulsive behaviors without relying on medication.

CBT can produce positive results with other mental health disorders, such as antisocial behaviors, ADHD, bipolar disorder, conduct disorder, general stress, personality disorders, phobias, schizophrenia, sexual disorders, insomnia, and social skill problems. Furthermore, CBT can also be used for treating physical conditions such as chronic pain, tinnitus, and rheumatism by helping to relieve the symptoms.

Benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT is an extensive form of therapy because it entails much work and self-reflection, requiring the client’s total commitment. It also has many benefits when the client actively participates in the treatment process. Below are a few benefits of using CBT.

  • Provides support and hope: CBT offers support and hope by helping people recognize inaccurate and misrepresentative thoughts. Individuals begin to open their minds to new opportunities.
  • Increased self-esteem: Low self-esteem is often associated with mental health issues and can cause negative thoughts to impact behaviors. CBT can disrupt the continuous loop of negativity and help individuals cultivate confidence in themselves.
  • Improvement for managing emotions: The behavioral angle of CBT assists individuals with managing how they react to their symptoms. This benefit can often include acquiring calmer reactions by using various relaxation techniques and helping control anger, stress, or anxiety.
  • Enhanced thought processes: CBT allows individuals to gain control of their thoughts by gradually transforming negative thought processes into positive and rational thoughts, simultaneously helping to improve coping and communication skills.

The discovery of all the beautiful ways CBT can transform lives is inspirational. The wide range of mental health disorders and the benefits provided give CBT endless possibilities for healing hurting people. The overall purpose of CBT is to create a clear concept of your own beliefs, attitudes, and expectations, with the ultimate goal to discover and transform false or distressing beliefs.

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