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  • Writer's pictureMaria Diaz

CBT, DBT or EMDR? Which Therapeutic Approach is Right for Me?

Updated: Feb 19

The field of mental health is always expanding and evolving its therapeutic techniques, leaving individuals, therapists and medical practitioners juggling to decipher which approach would best suit their needs. Over the years, three main approaches have made a name for themselves in this field: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). All three of these approaches have their unique benefits and effectiveness but understanding the differences between them can help to decide which one is best for an individual’s particular needs.

Therapist Helping client with Anxiety
Therapist Supporting Client

EMDR is a specialized form of psychotherapy that focuses on helping the client reprocess and desensitize traumatic experiences. It is different than CBT and DBT in that it primarily works with the client’s emotions and experiences to uncover the underlying causes of their mental health issues. This approach uses eye movements to access and process the client’s eye movements while also engaging in imagery, body somatic sensations and cognitive reframing. It is often used to effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has been found to be very successful in reducing the symptoms associated with this disorder. CBT is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on helping individuals to identify how their thoughts and behavior can affect their perceptions of the world around them. It centers on teaching the individual to recognize and challenge their unhelpful thoughts and assumptions, showing them how to modify their behavior and beliefs in order to alter their negative experiences. It is a short-term therapy focused on addressing specific current life problems that are causing distress and can be used to treat a variety of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to self-esteem, relationship and work problems. DBT takes a different approach, focusing primarily on developing skills for managing emotions and interpersonal relationships. The individual learns to be mindful and accept themselves and their life circumstances, while also learning how to take responsibility to improve their conditions. It also teaches skills to regulate and cope with challenging emotions and develop better communication skills. Overall, DBT is very effective in treating mood disorders, personality disorders, substance use, and even issues with self-harm behaviors. Ultimately, the choice of treatment depends on the individual and the specific needs they may have. EMDR, CBT, and DBT are all incredibly effective psychological approaches to mental health and overall well-being, and each has provided countless individuals with relief from their respective struggles. The differences between the three therapies should be carefully considered when selecting the most appropriate treatment for an individual.

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