You have probably heard of the terms Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) when it comes to therapy treatments, but are you familiar with what they are?  This article aims to discuss definitions of each type of therapy, the brief history behind each therapy, and their basic principles.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

According to the American Psychological Association (2017), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is “a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness.” 

Brief History

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was founded in the 1960s by Dr. Aaron Beck.  His goal was to help his patients gradually change the way that they think so that they may have better control over their reactions to their “automatic thoughts” (thoughts that are negative and spontaneous). In 1977, the first major clinical trial was conducted comparing CBT to antidepressant medication.  The findings were revolutionary as CBT became the first type of talk therapy to be as effective as psychiatric medication for the treatment of depression.  Impressively, CBT was deemed to be statistically twice as effective in preventing relapse in patients. (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 2022)


Basic Principles

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on several core principles but the main three are:

    1. Psychological problems are based in part on faulty and/or unhelpful ways of thinking.
    2. Psychological problems are based in part on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
    3. People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, resulting in relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.

The main strategies involve changing thinking patterns to change behavior patterns.  CBT is a flexible type of therapy.  Your therapist will work with you on discovering which aspects will work best for you allowing you the opportunity to work collaboratively.  In the end, this is your therapy, and you are an active participant in deciding which strategies will be most beneficial and effective for you. (What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?, 2022)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

According to the Cleveland Clinic (2022), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is “a type of talk therapy (psychotherapy).  It’s based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but it’s specially adapted for people who experience emotions very intensely.” It is used effectively for a variety of mental illness including depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, borderline personality disorder and various eating disorders.

Brief History

Dr. Marsha Linehan developed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in the 1970s.  Dr. Linehan was a suicide researcher at the time, and she developed DBT to help individuals who were severely suicidal and /or self-injuring.  She began by having her research team reach out to hospitals, asking them to send her individuals who matched the above criteria, to offer them better treatment.  She had her own personal struggles with severe mental illness, and it was important to her to help these populations.   

The uniqueness of DBT is that it avoids calling the patient the problem.  Instead, it puts the therapist and patient as equals in a therapy that balances cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and humanism (a movement in psychology supporting the belief that humans, as individuals, are unique beings and should be recognized and treated as such by psychologists and psychiatrists (Britannica, n.d.)) (Psychotherapy Academy – Online DBT and ACT Courses – CE/CME, 2021)


Core Principles

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a skills-based therapy that focuses on four main skill sets:

    1. Mindfulness
    2. Emotion Regulation
    3. Interpersonal Effectiveness
    4. Distress Tolerance

What is DBT? HeadWay Clinic. (2020, March 23).

DBT treatments are traditionally done in small groups that meet weekly or one on one with a therapist.  You work with your therapist to determine where to start with your treatment as you do not have a specific order that you must learn these skills in. DBT can be broken up into smaller segments that can be sprinkled in with other areas of your treatment in a way that is most beneficial to you and your therapy goals.


There is no one right way to do therapy and you have the option to check in with your therapist to make changes to your therapy plan.  Both CBT and DBT are incredibly effective tools for various reasons, and it is okay to mix and match skills that work best for you.  Many therapists will use a combination of both CBT and DBT methods to give you the best therapy experience possible. 

If you are interested in contacting our therapists to discuss what type of therapy may be best for you, we can be reached by calling us at 513-846-5283 or filling out our contact form. To learn more about our services, check out our Therapy, Adult Therapy, and Child & Adolescent Therapy pages.


Aaron T. Beck. Beck Institute. (2022, May 18). Development of Cognitive Behavior Therapy Retrieved September 13, 2022.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? . Retrieved September 13, 2022

Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): What it is & purpose. Retrieved September 13, 2022

Encycloaedia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Humanistic psychology Retrieved September 13, 2022

HeadWay Clinic. (2020, March 23). What is DBT? Retrieved September 13, 2022

Psychotherapy Academy. (2021, December 23). Psychotherapy Academy – Online DBT and ACT Courses – CE/CME. Retrieved September 15, 2022