Is CBT or DBT better for ADHD?

When it comes to mental health, there’s rarely a single solution that works for everyone, every time. More commonly, there are several options available, some of which are more suited to specific conditions and certain individuals than others. This is certainly true when it comes to Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. Although not all the time, some people with ADHD can even become violent. Many people still don’t know what ADHD is. There are many different ways to treat ADHD, from medication to training programs and psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are two of the most accepted forms of therapy used to help individuals successfully manage ADHD symptoms. There are even a number of essential oils for ADHD.

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These types of counseling share many of the same philosophies and techniques. They both help you develop healthy thought patterns to reduce your stress levels and increase your overall well-being. They can also both be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, addiction, and PTSD. We already know that treatment starts with a proper diagnosis. But is one type of online ADHD therapy better than the other at improving symptoms?

Online CBT for ADHD

There are two core concepts of cognitive behavior therapy:
  1. Your thoughts have a controlling influence on your behaviors and emotions.
  2. Your behaviors can strongly affect your emotions and thought patterns.
CBT works by making you think about yourself in a new light and encourages you to act on your new emotions and feelings. It helps you overcome your problems by changing the way you think about a situation and, consequently, the way in which you behave.

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How it works

CBT helps improve ADHD symptoms by using specific techniques to create change. The methods you learn with your psychiatrist will help you when the workshopped challenges come up in real life. Your therapist will help you with:
  • Planning and scheduling events. You’ll learn how to be consistent with your activities, arrange your daily schedule, and efficiently manage your time.
  • Cognitive restructuring. Your therapist will help you identify negative thought patterns and change them into more realistic and constructive thoughts.
  • Guided discovery. After negative self-beliefs have been determined, your counselor will help you explore alternative perspectives.
  • Positive self-talk. You’ll be encouraged to practice positive self-talk to keep you motivated to achieve your goals and reduce negative emotions.
  • Successive approximation. This technique is to help you if you get overwhelmed by big tasks. You’ll learn how to divide over-sized projects into small, manageable pieces.
  • Distractibility delay. To help you be more productive, your therapist will help you create a distraction-free workspace, implement reminders to make sure you’re staying on task, and create a schedule that includes regular breaks. They’ll also help you adjust any perfectionistic beliefs. 


While research remains ongoing, there have already been several studies that show CBT is an effective treatment for ADHD. One 2016 study concluded that CBT is one solution for improving ADHD symptoms that won’t respond to medication. Some of that medication has pros and cons such as quillivant xr. A 2018 study determined that CBT is successful at reducing ADHD symptoms, easing feelings of depression and anxiety, and improving executive function. This study also suggested that the benefits of CBT were long-lasting, with participants reporting improved symptoms five months after finishing treatment. A 2018 review claimed that CBT is an effective means of reducing hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention of those suffering from ADHD. 

Essential oils for ADHD

There is a lot of confusing information about using oils for ADHD, but there are some studies that have uncovered the benefits of using oils such as lavender and chamomile for children suffering from ADHD symptoms. Read the full article on essential oils here.


Dialectic behavioral therapy can be broken down into four parts:
  1. It’s a systems view in which everything and everyone is connected in one whole.
  2. Reality is made up of opposing forces standing side-by-side. Two seemingly opposite things can happen and be true at the same time.
  3. The interconnectedness of the world and the ability for opposites to co-exist means change happens constantly.
  4. Change is always transactional.
DBT encourages you to accept the present and your desire for change. It helps you develop ways of accepting and coping with your current circumstances, emotions, and yourself. By learning new skills, you can make positive changes in your everyday life and replace destructive behavior patterns with healthier ones.

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How it works

Like CBT, DBT also works by teaching specific methods to help you make changes in your life. The skills you develop during your one-to-one sessions with your therapist need to be practiced in group therapy sessions and in the outside world for them to have any real effect.  Your therapist will help you with:
  • Mindfulness. You’ll learn how to be grounded in the present moment to increase your focus. Mindfulness also helps you better recognize your impulsive behaviors and intense emotions.
  • Emotional regulation. Your therapist will help you develop techniques to manage, change, and accept your different emotions, allowing you to control them instead of the other way around. 
  • Distress tolerance. You’ll learn how to tolerate painful situations and emotions that can cause you to make impulsive decisions. You’ll also discover how to avoid negative behaviors which can make your problems worse.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness. Maintain healthy relationships with those around you by learning to effectively and respectfully communicate with others. Your therapist will also help you learn how to resolve conflicts before they become overwhelming.


The success of using DBT to treat ADHD is just becoming the focus of research studies. The results available so far suggest that the therapy has great potential for regulating emotions and improving impulse control issues. One 2017 study determined that DBT is an effective method of reducing ADHD symptoms when combined with other types of therapy. A review of several studies concluded that DBT with a focus on mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, regulation of emotions, distress tolerance, and impulsivity can also improve ADHD symptoms.

Which ADHD therapy is better?

As research on the effectiveness of CBT and DBT as treatments for ADHD is limited, it’s difficult to say which is best. Studies suggest that CBT could be the better treatment. But this could also be because more studies have been conducted into its effectiveness than DBT. For people suffering from violent behavior, other types of therapy can be more practical, in some more severe case a psychiatrist may be better than a psychologist, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication. ADHD symptoms can vary widely in intensity and diversity. To determine which form of therapy is best for you, your therapist needs to analyze your symptoms and their severity. The type of problems you face on a daily basis will conclude the most effective form of treatment.  If your ADHD symptoms are getting in the way of you reaching your goals, we’re here for you. We can discuss your different treatment options and help devise the best plan that will work most effectively. Schedule your first appointment today and take the first step on the path to a better tomorrow.

Read more about online ADHD therapy here >>

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741