The Difference Between CBT and DBT

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” is when a person works one-on-one with a therapist to cover deep-rooted issues that may not have been addressed before. Many people in addiction recovery have struggled with trauma, abuse, neglect, pain and more, but haven’t been given the opportunity to heal and move forward from these tragic incidents. As you learn more about the many beautiful components of treatment for addiction recovery, you’ll find that there are several approaches that can be used to give you the greatest chances of success.

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an incredibly effective approach to treatment which helps individuals let go of old, negative thought patterns, while adopting more constructive ways of thinking that will lead them towards happier, healthier lives. The following are some examples of this thought process change:

Old: “I can never do anything right”.

New: “I made a mistake, but that’s okay because I learned”.

Old: “I’m sick and tired of going through the same things.”

New: “I’m not happy with the way things are going in my life right now, but I can change that by finding alternative ways.”

With CBT, a client learns to identify some of those false, negative beliefs that only serve to hold them back. They’re able to become much more productive in their thought processes because they choose to change their beliefs and attitudes about themselves – and about life. A major component of CBT is “homework,” which may involve worksheets and tools for clients to practice and utilize between sessions.

CBT has many studied for many years, and has proven to help people with a number of conditions, including; substance use disorders (SUDs), eating disorders, personality disorders and beyond. A 2015 workbook titled “The Addiction Recovery Skills Workbook” by Suzette Glasner-Edwards notes that in the realm of addiction recovery, CBT is also considered relapse prevention. With this, a number of topics are addressed, such as:

  •    Understanding how addictive behaviors occur
  •    Discovering people, places, situations and emotions that bring a person cravings to use
  •    Learning healthy coping responses for when these moments occur

CBT places the power in the hands of the individual – and the encouragement of developing accountability truly helps them grow.

We help people with addictions and substance use disorders recover. Get mindfulness training and learn the 12 Steps for deeper healing.

What is DBT?

Originally developed to help treat those with borderline personality disorder, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) helps those in recovery find a balance between acceptance and change. Many people in recovery have come to depend on substances because they don’t know how to come to grips with the thoughts and feelings they’re experiencing. This sense of overwhelmingness leaves them wanting to distract themselves from the pain rather than confront it, and DBT helps a person piece all of this together.

Coping mechanisms, such as those found through mindfulness, tend to help many people in addiction recovery find acceptance with their life. The Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics at the University of Washington explained that the term “dialectics” means an “integration of the opposites.” Rather than thinking life is either “good” or “bad,” or that people are either “helpful” or “mean,” DBT helps clients better understand the subtleties that lie in the in-betweens of life. Here are a few examples of how thoughts may change with DBT:

Old: “My friend hasn’t called me lately, so they obviously don’t want to be in my life anymore”

New: “My friend cares a lot about me– they’re probably busy. Maybe I’ll check in with them next week”

Old: “I’m mad at you, so I don’t want you in my life anymore”

New: “I’m frustrated with you at the moment, but I know that will pass, and I love you”

DBT can be incredibly effective in building a solid foundation of recovery from substance use disorders, because clients learn to utilize the following tools:

  • Mindfulness– individuals learn to focus the mind on the present and “ride the waves” of emotion, rather than allowing the mind to run wild with desire to stop or numb a feeling
  • Emotional Regulation– clients learn to reduce emotional intensity, rumination, and feelings of being constantly overwhelmed with a variety of processes such as “checking the facts”
  • Distress Tolerance– helps reduce impulsivity and increase crisis management skills, keeping clients safe during life’s most challenging moments
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness– teaches one to stabilize relationships by identifying their needs, learning how to ask others to meet them in a reasonable manner, and maintaining self-respect

What’s the Difference?

Put simply, CBT focuses on helping a person change old, unproductive thoughts into newer, more productive ones, while DBT helps a person find balance in accepting that life doesn’t have to be “black” or “white.” There are many “gray” areas in life that we have to come to terms with sometimes – such as being incredibly angry with a person but still loving them deeply. Both CBT and DBT can be incredibly beneficial for a person, depending on their needs.

Aldous Huxley, an English novelist and philosopher, once stated,

“Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you.”

Individual therapy can help us process some of inner turmoil that we’ve gone through so that we can grow in recovery; if you’re ready to get a jump-start on your mental, physical and spiritual health, speak with a professional from Renewal Lodge today. It’s never too late to turn your life around.

Find Healing At Renewal Lodge

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
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