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Nowadays there are a variety of different types of therapy available for individuals in need. While many therapeutic methods can be utilized concurrently, certain therapeutic techniques can be especially beneficial for certain ailments. Any qualified mental health professional will be able to assist in deciding the best course of action regarding one’s therapy plan. Having a broad understanding of the similarities and differences of some of the therapeutic modalities that are frequently utilized in mental health treatment can be helpful for a client. Certain therapeutic methods have tangential methods that are widely used. For example, Psych Central indicates that dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is actually a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The American Psychological Association asserts that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychological treatment. CBT can be an effective form of treatment for many health disorders, such as anxiety disorders, depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), phobias, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), sleep disorders, bipolar disorders, substance use disorder, sexual disorders, and schizophrenia. It can also be helpful with managing situational emotional challenges. The Mayo Clinic provides various examples of these, which can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Overcoming emotional trauma related to abuse and/ or violence
  • Resolving relationship conflicts
  • Coping with grief and/ or loss
  • Coping with a medical illness
  • Managing chronic physical symptoms

Cognitive behavioral therapy uses tools to help teach healthy coping mechanisms for regulating emotional challenges. It focuses on helping people learn how thoughts affect feelings and behaviors. In shifting one’s thought patterns, an individual is more capable of releasing negative feelings and breaking unhealthy behavioral patterns. One of the goals of CBT is to help a client learn techniques to enable them to be their own therapist. Through various exercises (conducted both in and out of therapy sessions) a client develops coping skills to learn to change his or her own problematic emotions, damaging thinking patterns, and unhelpful thoughts. Mental health clinicians that integrate CBT into their treatment plans generally practice talk therapy that is reliant upon several guiding features. 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

The term “dialectical” derives from the idea that combining two opposites in therapy (acceptance and change) yields better results than either would on its own, as is described by WebMD. DBT was created out of a need to help diagnose individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). While DBT is housed under the larger umbrella of CBT as a form of mental health treatment, this type of specialized treatment has been known to be highly effective in helping clients that struggle with self-harming behaviors. It is also commonly used to help treat individuals struggling with the following ailments:

  • Sexual trauma survivors
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Chronic suicidal ideations
  • High risk and/ or difficult to treat patients

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT that is tailored towards helping a client acknowledge the pain and discomfort he or she feels, while being empowered to choose healthy behaviors instead of engaging in harmful actions to simultaneously allow him or herself to feel and move through the uncomfortable emotions. The following four components make up DBT:

  • Individual therapy: focused on improving client motivation and helping clients apply and integrate skills learned to navigate specific life challenges.
  • Group skills training: focused on improving and teaching healthy client behavioral skills, as well as provide a forum to practicing integrating the skills.
  • If needed, distance/ phone coaching: in-the-moment coaching to assist in and provide crisis management support between sessions
  • Consultation team: this component is solely for the mental health provider treating the client. A consultation team serves as support for the clinician in treating clients with severe, complex, and/ or challenging to treat disorders. 

In DBT there is some emphasis placed on dealing with and navigating thoughts, however the primary focus is placed on helping clients learn to identify triggers outside of themselves and pair those triggers with healthy responses and coping mechanisms. 

What’s Best for Me?

Every individual is complex with nuanced needs and will respond to different forms of treatment for mental illness uniquely. With the wide variety of therapeutic modalities available, certain types have been proven more effective for certain mental health ailments. For example, a therapy technique that works well for individuals struggling with depression and/ or anxiety may exacerbate an individual struggling with an eating disorder. CBT focuses on rationale and reasoning, DBT heavily relies upon mindfulness skills to assist in effectively regulating emotions. Both types of therapy techniques can yield successful results. The best way to figure out which type of therapy treatment is best is to consult a mental health professional. Any qualified mental health professional will consider all symptoms, health history, and goals of a client when recommending the best course of action regarding his or her treatment plan. 

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