Dialectical behavior therapy, commonly known as DBT, is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. It’s a highly effective form of therapy that is used to treat many mental health disorders such as depression, borderline personality disorder, and others.
What is DBT?
Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan first developed dialectical behavioral therapy in the late 1980s. It was originally developed to help better treat borderline personality disorder. It has since been used to treat many other types of disorders.
DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment. The core theory behind DBT is that some people are more likely to react intensely or out-of-the-ordinary towards certain emotional situations. These emotional situations are primarily found in family, romantic, or friend relationships. The theory suggests that some individuals’ arousal levels increase more quickly and intensely than an average person’s. DBT teaches these people with intense arousal levels how to cope with these emotional surges.
What are the characteristics of DBT?
There are three main characteristics of DBT that set it apart from other forms of therapy.
What does a DBT session look like?
DBT has two components, individual and group sessions. How many of each type of session is determined on an individual basis but both types of sessions are usually recommended for the best outcomes.
What are the four modules of DBT?
An essential part of the skills taught during DBT is learning to be mindful. People are taught to ask two questions. The first is, “What do I do to practice core mindfulness skills?” DBT teaches them the answer is to observe, describe, and participate. The second question is, “How do I practice core mindfulness skills?” to which the answer is non-judgmentally, open-mindfully, and effectively. Mindfulness is taught so that patients learn to take the judgmental “good” or “bad” labels out of emotions.
DBT teaches people interpersonal response patterns. Effective strategies for asking what one needs, saying no, and coping with interpersonal conflict are taught. This module focuses on teaching patients how to handle situations where they want something changed, or want to resist change. This helps maximize the chances that a person’s goal will be met, and in the process that relationships aren’t damaged.
Many approaches to mental health treatment focus on changing distressing situations. DBT focuses on learning to accept emotional pain or distress. Distress is a natural part of life, so knowing how to handle it is a valuable skill. People learn how to accept situations in a nonjudgmental or approving way. DBT teaches the important distinction between accepting reality and approving of reality.
Emotional regulation is something that people with certain mental health disorders don’t have. DBT focuses on skills to help people with these disorders regulate their emotions so that they aren’t constantly experiencing intense emotions. They learn skills such as:
What disorders benefit from DBT?
While DBT was originally developed as a treatment for borderline personality disorder, it has since been used for many other mental disorders. In some instance, it is modified to better fit the treatment needs for the disorder, like with eating disorders. DBT is an effective treatment for the following disorders:
Due to the emphasis on regulating emotions and finding healthy coping mechanisms, DBT is increasingly being incorporated into the treatment of many types of mental health disorders. It’s a highly effective treatment that can help many different people. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with any of the disorder above and are interested in learning more or signing up for DBT sessions, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.
Since 2003, the Delray Center for Healing has provided exceptional psychiatric and therapeutic care for mental health, eating, and substance use disorders. To learn more about our philosophy and treatment approach, download our free e-book, “Psychiatry Redefined,” written by our founder and medical director, Raul J. Rodriguez, MD.