Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy developed in the 1980s by Marsha Linehan. DBT provides clients with tools to manage painful emotions and reduce conflict in relationships. DBT focuses on teaching skills in four key areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness[1].

When It's Used

DBT teaches skills that are useful for all people, but it was created as a treatment for borderline personality disorder. Research shows that DBT can treat depression, bulimia, binge-eating, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic-stress disorder, and substance abuse. DBT skills help people improve their ability to regulate emotions, tolerate distressful or negative emotions, be present in the given moment, and communicate and interact with others.

What to Expect

DBT treatment plans typically included both individual therapy sessions and skills group therapy. A therapist will work with you to apply DBT skills within your daily routine and address issues you face during treatment. DBT group therapy teaches and practices skills in small groups. Members share their experiences and provide support. A therapist leads the group by teaching skills and walking everyone through exercises. Session lasts about two hours once a week with homework assigned.  

How Do I Get DBT?

If you’re interested in receiving DBT, search for a therapist in your area who is certified as a DBT therapist. Certification requires going through special training and practice experience to become fully certified. If you’re seeing a non-certified therapist, some feel comfortable teaching elements of the practice.  You can ask them about the treatment and explore what you can work on based on skills and practices utilized by DBT. If you can’t afford DBT treatment, there are also self-help books and online materials you can explore to see if this treatment is right for you. 


[1] “Dialectical Behavior Therapy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/therapy-types/dialectical-behavior-therapy.

Treatment & Resources