What is DBT?

DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a highly effective therapy for those struggling with intense emotional ups and downs, depression, bulimia and binge eating disorder, PTSD, substance abuse and other addictive or compulsive behaviors.

DBT combines contemporary research findings on what helps people make lasting change with ancient mindfulness practices borrowed from eastern and western contemplative traditions.

There are 4 sets of skills taught in DBT:

  • Mindfulness: learn how to be present in each moment, rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future
  • Emotion Regulation: learn how to manage your emotions so you feel more in control, rather than feeling like your emotions control you
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: learn how to deal with conflict effectively and how to assert your needs while maintaining relationships and your self-respect
  • Distress Tolerance: learn how to get through hard times without engaging in behavior that makes you feel better in the short-term, but worse in the long run

DBT was originally created by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington to help people who struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder which is often characterized by impulsive behavior, self-harm, difficulty in interpersonal relationships and intense emotional fluctuations.  Now recognized as the gold standard in treating those with Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT has also proven to be more effective than traditional talk therapy in treating a range of issues that have difficulty in regulating emotions at their core.

Why “dialectic”?

The dialectic in DBT refers to two seemingly opposite things being true at the same time, for example, clients in DBT are doing the best they can at any given moment and they need to try harder. Another way of describing dialectics is balancing the opposing positions of acceptance AND change. The 4 skill modules represent a tension between acceptance and change. You learn how to change behaviors, thoughts and emotions in the Emotion Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness skills set and you learn how to accept and tolerate what is in the Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance skills set.

How is DBT different than other therapies?

DBT provides a comprehensive set of practical skills to help you manage your emotions, change destructive behaviors and create a life worth living.  The therapy is structured around your goals and your therapist will prioritize the things in your life that you most want to change. You will have access to 7-day a week phone skills coaching from your therapist to help you apply the DBT skills in your everyday life.