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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Lomanov, Psy.D.

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Skills-Based Therapy

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Part 1 of 2 (read Part 2 of 2 here)

Starting therapy is a very personal choice. Working with a therapist can help people from all walks of life, from those who have just had their first encounter with depression, to those with a history of toxic relationships, to those who may have felt fantastic every day of their lives until they experienced a life-changing trauma or loss.

Whether you’re already thinking about what kind of therapy is right for you or still wondering if you should try it, it can be overwhelming to face all of your options. Having information about the resources available to you can help.

Here’s a break down of some of the most well-known types of therapy and potential pros and cons of each. Check out CBT, DBT, and ACT explained below:

CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This type of therapy emphasizes teaching how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interrelated and can lead to symptoms of mental illness.


  • extensive psychoeducation about thinking mistakes

  • direct focus on identifying core beliefs that affect behavior

  • good for patients with social anxiety, specific phobias, panic attacks, major depression, OCD, insomnia

  • can help build motivation and provide concrete solutions to daily problems and stressors


  • focus on symptom reduction rather than improvement in overall quality of life

  • symptom reduction has been shown to be short-term

  • not as helpful for patients with multiple/complex diagnoses

  • not as helpful for patients with emotion dysregulation

  • can be distressing in the short-term


  • worksheet/homework based

  • time-limited

  • structured, therapist may set agenda

DBT: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

This type of therapy emphasizes acceptance of negative emotions and experiences while working on developing coping and self-regulation skills.


  • focus on emotion regulation

  • builds capacity for mindfulness and self-observation skills

  • provides practical solutions for distress tolerance

  • teaches ways to be interpersonally effective

  • good for BPD (borderline personality disorder), those who self-harm


  • difficult to find specialists who teach effectively

  • not widely available on outpatient basis

  • requires long-term self-monitoring and impulse control and can be difficult to maintain

  • can be expensive


  • structured and skills-based with weekly agenda

  • worksheet/homework based

  • time-limited

  • often in group format

ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

This is a form of therapy that emphasizes creating a meaningful life based on one’s values, rather than on temporary feelings and thoughts.


  • good for OCD and other anxiety disorders

  • helpful use of metaphors

  • encourages action in alignment with values

  • focus on developing self-awareness and self observation


  • can be distressing in the short-term

  • difficult to find specialists

  • can be highly technical and hard to understand

  • requires long-term self-monitoring and can be difficult to maintain

My next post covers more traditional 'talk therapy' and discusses prolonged exposure, psychodynamic, family/couples, and group therapy.


about the author

photo by @lebishphotography

My passion is helping people connect with their most authentic selves. Through this blog, I hope to offer resources to demystify psychotherapy and encourage you to think about your mental wellness.

In my integrative psychotherapy practice in Echo Park, my mission is to support you in finding your best self and living an examined life.

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