Is Schema Therapy the Same as DBT?

Schema Therapy

When it comes to treating mental health disorders, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), several therapeutic approaches are available. Two of the most popular are Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Schema Therapy. While both therapies have proven effective in treating BPD, they are not the same. This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive comparison between these two therapies, focusing on their application in schema therapy for borderline personality disorder.

Understanding Schema Therapy

Schema therapy is a relatively new form of psychotherapy that combines elements from cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, attachment, and gestalt models. It was developed by Dr. Jeffrey Young and his colleagues in the 1980s as a response to patients who didn’t respond well to traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

The term “schema” refers to deeply ingrained patterns or themes that people develop throughout their lives. These schemas often stem from unmet emotional needs during childhood and can lead to maladaptive coping styles in adulthood if left unresolved.

Schema therapy aims to help individuals identify their harmful schemas, understand how they influence behavior, and develop healthier ways of meeting their emotional needs. It is particularly effective for individuals with BPD as it addresses core issues like identity confusion, fear of abandonment, and chronic feelings of emptiness.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): An Overview

DBT is another form of cognitive-behavioral therapy developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s. It was initially designed to treat individuals with severe suicidal tendencies but has since been adapted for other conditions including BPD.

The term “dialectical” refers to the process of finding balance between opposing forces or ideas. In DBT, this involves balancing acceptance (of oneself and one’s current situation) with change (working towards improving one’s life).

DBT focuses on teaching individuals skills to manage their emotions, tolerate distress, improve interpersonal relationships, and be more mindful of their thoughts and actions. It is often the first-line treatment for BPD due to its strong evidence base and effectiveness in reducing self-harm and suicide attempts.

Comparing Schema Therapy and DBT

While both schema therapy and DBT are effective treatments for BPD, they differ in several ways:

1. Focus: While both therapies aim to help individuals manage their emotions and improve their lives, they focus on different aspects. Schema therapy focuses on identifying and changing maladaptive schemas that underlie an individual’s problems. On the other hand, DBT focuses on teaching practical skills to manage emotions, tolerate distress, improve relationships, and be mindful.

2. Treatment Approach: Schema therapy tends to be longer-term and more intensive than DBT. It involves exploring past experiences (especially childhood) that have led to the development of harmful schemas. DBT is typically shorter-term and more focused on the present – teaching skills to manage current problems.

3. Therapeutic Relationship: In schema therapy, the therapeutic relationship is seen as crucial for change. The therapist often takes an active role in meeting the patient’s emotional needs that were not met in childhood. In contrast, while the therapeutic relationship is also important in DBT, it is more balanced with a focus on collaboration and mutual problem-solving.


In conclusion, while both schema therapy and DBT are effective treatments for borderline personality disorder, they are not the same. Each has its unique focus, treatment approach, and view of the therapeutic relationship.

Choosing between these two therapies often depends on an individual’s specific needs and circumstances. Some may benefit more from exploring their past experiences through schema therapy while others may find immediate relief in learning practical skills through DBT.

Regardless of which therapy one chooses, it is important to remember that recovery from BPD is possible with the right help and support. Both schema therapy and DBT offer valuable tools to understand, manage, and overcome the challenges of living with BPD.


At Balanced Mind of New York, we are committed to providing a comprehensive and personalized approach to mental health and well-being. Our experienced and highly trained therapists specialize in a range of therapeutic modalities, including Schema Therapy, to address the unique needs of each individual seeking support. With a deep understanding of the intricacies of Schema Therapy, our counselors will guide you through the exploration of core beliefs and early maladaptive schemas that may be contributing to your emotional challenges. Through collaborative and empathetic sessions, we will work towards identifying and restructuring these schemas, fostering lasting emotional healing.Our commitment extends beyond traditional therapeutic approaches. We integrate Schema Therapy with other evidence-based methods to ensure a holistic and effective treatment plan. If you are seeking a profound and transformative therapeutic experience tailored to your specific needs, contact Balanced Mind of New York to gain support you on your journey towards emotional well-being and personal growth.


Balanced Mind of New York

Balanced Mind is a psychotherapy and counseling center offering online therapy throughout New York. We specialize in Schema Therapy and EMDR Therapy. We work with insurance to provide our clients with both quality and accessible care.

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