Four questions to ask a DBT therapist

Looking for a San Francisco DBT therapist? 4 questions to ask

Are you looking to start Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in San Francisco?

Has someone suggested that DBT might help you?

Or have you heard about DBT and think it might be the right fit for you?

Whatever the case, if you’re looking to begin DBT, it’s important to ask a potential DBT therapist about their training and background.

Many therapists incorporate DBT into their work, but they may not provide the most effective form of DBT treatment, known as adherent DBT (or full DBT).


What is adherent DBT (full DBT)?

Adherent, or full DBT, is DBT that adheres to the standards developed by Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT. It is the most thoroughly researched treatment for a range of mental health challenges that encompass emotional dysregulation.

DBT treatment includes weekly individual DBT sessions, a DBT skills group, the use of a diary card and between-session phone skills coaching.

The DBT therapist must also meet weekly with a DBT consultation team. If your therapist is not part of a DBT team, you are not in full DBT treatment.


Why does it matter if I’m with a therapist that practices adherent DBT (full DBT)?

You will receive the best possible treatment if you’re in full DBT.

Sometimes people will say they tried DBT and it didn’t help them, but didn’t know that they weren’t receiving the complete DBT treatment. This is unfortunate because this lack of information prevents people from getting the help they really need.

If you engage in any of the following behaviors, make sure your therapist provides full DBT:

  • Self harm
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Addictive or compulsive behaviors
  • Eating disorders
  • Problems with anger, especially in your closest relationships
  • Feeling like your emotions get out of control

4 questions to ask a DBT therapist before beginning therapy

There are four pillars of DBT that a DBT therapist should be able to say yes to.


1. Have they been intensively trained in DBT?

It’s important to find out what kind of DBT training a potential therapist has completed. Have they received intensive training in DBT?
Behavioral Tech, the training institute founded by the creator of DBT, Marsha Linehan, provides excellent, comprehensive training in the full DBT model.

2. Do they run a DBT skills group?

Find out if a potential DBT therapist runs a DBT group. Skills group isn’t optional in DBT; it’s a necessary component.

A DBT skills group is a class where you learn a new skill each week that is practical, tangible, and something you can apply to your life right away.

3. Do they provide phone skills coaching between sessions?

If a potential therapist doesn’t provide phone skills coaching between sessions, they aren’t providing full DBT.

Skills coaching helps you apply the skills you’ve learned (and are learning) in your DBT group when you get stuck between sessions.

4. Are they part of a DBT team?

If your DBT therapist is not part of a DBT team, then you’re not in DBT therapy.

Because the team is for the therapist, this part of DBT isn’t so apparent to you as the client.

If your therapist doesn’t know what a DBT team is, or they say they are part of a different kind of consultation group, then they aren’t providing full DBT.

Picking a therapist is hard if you’re in crisis

If you’re going through a crisis, feeling out of control or hopeless, it can be hard to search for the therapist that’s the right fit for you.

Asking a DBT therapist the four questions above will help you be an informed consumer and ensure you get the help you need.



Wondering if DBT is right for you?

Call us at (415) 310-5142 for your phone consultation.