What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a fast growing treatment method used to treat a variety of mental health disorders.   Skills training is at the heart of DBT success.  Patients struggling with mental illness often live in the past or the future, which creates unhappiness in the present.  The 4 skill sets in DBT are:

  • Mindfulness: Patients learn to pay attention without being judgmental, and how to be fully present in the moment.
  • Emotion Regulation: Patients develop a variety of skills to reduce vulnerabilities, change negative emotions, and become better problem solvers.
  • Distress Tolerance: Patients learn dysfunctional behaviors are responses to emotional pain. They learn how to navigate through crisis and how to accept reality. They also learn this is not a cure, but rather a technique used to survive a crisis.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: Patients learn to identify their feelings and effectively ask for what they need, as well as how to say “no” and manage conflict, all while maintaining their self-respect.

Once these skills are learned, DBT-trained therapists help patients apply them in everyday life situations, by allowing them to practice the skills and giving them feedback and positive reinforcement.

“I’m so glad you taught our child the DBT skills.  We all use them in our home.”

Why Does DBT Work?

DBT seeks to validate feelings and problems.  It encourages acceptance by challenging patients to make productive changes in their lives.  Studies have shown that DBT reduces the rate of self-injury and suicide attempts.  It works because patients learn to manage their emotions and stress without resorting to self-defeating behaviors.