Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Evidence based psychological treatment

Psychotherapy is one of the best treatment methods available for a number of mental illnesses. One of the most common types of therapy is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Also called talk therapy, CBT focuses on talking about your problems to help you frame your thoughts differently. If you feel like negative thoughts are always in control – “I am a failure. I can’t do anything right. No one will like me if they see who I really am.” – CBT can help you use logic and reason to flip the script and be in control of your thoughts instead of allowing your thoughts to control you.

With such similar names, are CBT and DBT that different from each other, and can using one have benefits over using the other? Read on to learn about the differences between CBT vs DBT and Clarity’s unique treatment programme.


Standard CBT is an effective first line treatment for many disorders – but it isn’t effective in treating all mental illnesses. Clarity understands that when treating addiction CBT only goes so far and addresses only one component of the disorder. The main type of therapy that we use at Clarity is called Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). DBT is a more specific form of CBT that focuses on helping people who tend to have extreme emotional reactions. Our psychologist designed programme teaches clients how interact with the environment around them in a less emotional, healthier way. At Clarity our psychologists are experts in assessment and the delivery or disorder specific treatments. We know that whilst CBT has many benefits for clients accessing treatment for addiction its usefulness is compromised by the fact that it works on the part of the brain that deals primarily with rational thought and decision making. This is a higher level of brain functioning and treatment at this level does not address the underlying neurological issues of addiction that drive many destructive behaviours.

Clarity knows that successful treatment for addiction requires something more sophisticated than CBT alone. Because addiction is a brain disease that affects the reward centers of the brain, treatment is required that addresses impulses and feelings too. DBT is ideally suited to this level of brain functioning as it delivers specific skills training and teaches clients to regulate their distress tolerance and emotional dysregulation. With Clarity’s unique 3-Stage addiction treatment programme CBT becomes optimized in this sense and both processes of emotional regulation and thinking are addressed at the same time.

CBT is a general term

CBT is a catch-all phrase for therapies that share common characteristics.  Therapists who practice CBT generally practice talk therapy that relies on several guiding features. Those features include:
Based on the idea that our thoughts influence our feelings, so changing the way we think about and react to situations will help us feel better.
Most patients will seek treatment for a period of time and then start to apply CBT strategies on their own without significant support from a therapist. If mood or behaviour problems persist, clients may then progress to a different type of therapy to address a specific trauma or other issue that continues to cause pain or be a barrier to healthy living.
CBT works best when the patient feels like they can trust their therapist. Because of the deeply personal nature of therapy, patients should always work wiith someone they respect and feel comfortable with.
CBT encourages patients to apply logic and reason to help direct how they respond to situations instead of letting emotions do all the driving.
Therapists have a specific reason for the techniques and methods they bring up in each session. They use the client’s goals to figure out which CBT concepts will be most beneficial to them and tailor each one accordingly.

Developing heathy coping skills

While DBT is a type of CBT, it is tailored towards helping people acknowledge the pain and discomfort they feel, yet still feel safe and “ok” in the moment and empowered to choose healthy behaviours instead of impulsive or harmful actions. At Clarity we have interwoven CBT into our unique programme. However, while some emphasis is put on dealing with thoughts, patients at Clarity are taught to identify triggers outside of themselves and match those triggers with a healthy coping mechanism or response in order to overcome their addictions.

CBT vs DBT for treating certain illnesses

Not all mental illnesses respond to treatment in the same way. A therapy technique that works well for depression and anxiety can exacerbate eating disorders or personality disorders.
CBT has been shown to be incredibly effective globally when treating depression, and is more likely to make depression go into remission than other types of therapy. This method of therapy has also been proven beneficial in treating anxiety, as it gives patients control over their recovery. CBT has also been shown to help with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeping issues.
DBT was originally created to help those diagnosed with entrenched personality disorders and behavioural problems. DBT focuses on helping people change their behaviour patterns, as opposed to trying to think or talk through the issues they are struggling with. This type of CBT helps those who have developed patterns of intense emotional reactions and impulsive behaviours in response to what patients describe as overwhelming feelings of pain and rejection – the feeling of walking through a world filled with knives. At Clarity we know that DBT is often the most effective therapy for those who struggle with addictions, chemical dependency and complex trauma. Trauma survivors have been shown to particularly respond well to DBT techniques.

Philosophies used in CBT vs DBT

CBT focuses on reasoning and rationale, as most commonly found in stoic philosophy and the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method uses critical thinking to question assumptions in place. This works well for those who suffer with anxiety and depression, as it helps them to see their problems from a more logical point of view. For example, clients who struggle with feelings of failure and inadequacy are asked to look at the facts. When have they in fact been successful at accomplishing a goal? Are there other people – friends, family or co-workers – who could give evidence of the client’s success in different situations? Who or what are they using as a measuring stick for success? Is that a realistic comparison?
DBT relies heavily on mindfulness skills used in Buddhism and Zen practices. Both of these are perfectly suited to Clarity superb luxurious retreat location in northern Thailand. DBT teaches patients to use specific mindfulness techniques to learn to live with pain in the world and accept how things are instead of suffering by trying to change them. As a central component of Thai culture it is not difficult to see why DBT would be ideally suited to be delivered in the serene mountains of Chiang Mai.

The difference in treatment methods

CBT focuses on how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour influence each other. While DBT does work on these things, emphasis is given more towards regulating emotions, being mindful, and learning to accept pain. CBT seeks to give patients the ability to recognize when their thoughts might become troublesome, and gives them techniques to redirect those thoughts. DBT helps patients find ways to accept themselves, feel safe, and manage their emotions to help regulate potentially destructive or harmful behaviours. At Clarity clients engage in both DBT and CBT groups on a daily basis. All clients receive 4 individual therapy sessions per week to assist in skills training and achieving their treatment goals.

Clients who engage in DBT therapy at Clarity participate in DBT skills training sessions that are typically taught in a group setting in four modules. All our clients will meet daily with their DBT group and individual therapist. Once patients are able to use DBT skills to regulate their emotions, practice mindfulness, and improve relationships with others, they are able to transition to more standard CBT groups. These daily groups seek to address negative thought patterns or recurring harmful behaviours and are designed to tackle specific processes central to addiction. In the third stage of Clarity’s unique treatment programme we deliver and enhanced version of CBT (CBT-E) that seeks to offer resolution to deeper underlying psychological factors that can often fuel an addiction in the longer term.

DBT programmes at Clarity - How to tell if CBT or DBT is right for you

The best way to figure out which type of therapy treatment is best for you is to talk with one of our psychologists. They will consider your symptoms, treatment history, and the goals you outline for what you want out of treatment and recommend the best next steps.
Because each illness responds differently to treatment techniques, you will want to go with the method that has been shown most effective for treating your diagnosis and symptoms. If you have not yet received a diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist, consider setting an appointment with one of Clarity’s clinical psychologists for a free assessment. This will help you identify the best treatment options, as well as strengths and existing skills you can leverage in your recovery process. Our assessment process is designed to both inform you and assist you in making the decision that best suits your needs.

Depression and anxiety sufferers have found a lot of success with CBT, while people with addictions, borderline personality disorder and chronic thoughts of suicide find DBT more helpful. Keep in mind that many people affected by addictions have more than one diagnosis, and sometime people use elements from both DBT and CBT to manage their symptoms. Let us build a programme around your needs and deliver the best care for you in our luxurious surroundings at a price you can afford.

Have You Tried Therapy Already?

Many individuals who have gone to therapy say they don’t want to go back because they feel like it wasn’t effective. Because the patient-therapist relationship is so important, we place extra emphasis on making you feel safe and cared for. It’s important when committing to treatment that you are realistic and don’t just give it a few weeks before you call it quits. Treatment is a collaborative experience and it is important to be aware that your therapist is not going to do the work for you. You will need to commit to doing the hard work of making changes in your life to support healthier thinking, healthier behaviours, and healthier living. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, but by using a therapeutic treatment like Claritys 3-Stage DBT programme that is carefully matched to your symptoms, you can gradually make a series of small changes that add up to less pain and a better life.

With so many treatment options out there, it can be confusing to know what techniques will best help you. Just remember that CBT and DBT are two of the more common therapy practices, and have been shown to help individuals suffering from a number of mental illnesses. Clarity offers both CBT and DBT as core interventions in our residential treatment programme. Contact our admissions team to learn more about how our unique treatment programmes may help you or a loved one.

Why choose Clarity

Clarity offers an incredible healing experience for our clients and their families that is second to none. Our team is comprised of individuals with years of experience who are all here for one reason. To help you realise, achieve, and maintain permanent long term recovery.