Understanding the Four Modules of DBT

DBT, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, is a form of therapy that focuses on teaching people psychosocial skills. DBT assumes that people are doing their best, but they lack the skills needed to succeed in life. This form of therapy is supposed to teach patients those skills needed to become successful. DBT uses four modules below to help teach those skills.

  1. Mindfulness

Largely derived from Buddhist meditative practices, DBT teaches patients how to be mindful. They’re 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.

  1. Interpersonal Effectiveness

DBT teaches people interpersonal response patterns. Some 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. 

  1. Distress Tolerance

Many approaches to mental health treatment focus on changing distressing situations. DBT focuses on learning to accept emotional pain or distress, as distress is a natural part of life. People learn how to accept situations in a nonjudgmental or approving way. DBT teaches the important distinction between accepting reality and approving of reality.

  1. Emotion Regulation

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:

  • Labeling and identifying emotions
  • Identifying obstacles to changing emotions
  • Increasing positive emotional events
  • Increasing mindfulness to current emotions
  • Taking the opposite action
  • Applying distress tolerance techniques


The modules taught during DBT aren’t too shocking. Most people learn these skills during their life, but when an individual has a mental illness these skills might be lacking. To learn more about dialectical behavioral therapy visit our website or feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!


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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.