What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy originally developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to treat chronically suicidal adults diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Although DBT was developed for the treatment of severely suicidal patients, DBT skills can be very useful for anyone who is trying to manage stressful, painful, or challenging situations in their lives. DBT focuses on teaching patients and families several strategies to help tolerate painful emotions and to manage difficult situations in the best way possible. We all face situations that are out of our control, that are difficult to tolerate, and that cause us to feel emotionally out of control.

The 4 Modules of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

  1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness, at its essence, is simply being present. This means paying attention to what is happening right now. Without judgment. Without overthinking. Without invalidating your experience. Mindfulness is just being willing to show up to the present moment. It is acceptance of the present moment.
  2. Emotion Regulation: Emotion Regulation teaches you how to manage negative and overwhelming emotions while increasing your positive experiences. An important aspect of emotion regulation is understanding that negative emotions are not bad, or something that must be avoided. They are a normal part of life, but there are ways to acknowledge and then let go of these feelings so that you are not controlled by them.  This module encompasses three goals:
    1. Understand your emotions
    2. Reduce emotional vulnerability
    3. Decrease emotional suffering
  3. Distress Tolerance: Distress Tolerance skills are used to tolerating painful emotions without making the situation worse. These skills are not meant to solve your problems, per se, as you may be facing problems that you have no power to change. Instead, they are designed to help you overcome overwhelming emotions that can often emerge when we are faced with obstacles in our lives.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: The goals of DBT’s Interpersonal Effectiveness skills are to build and maintain positive relationships. These skills are often natural in people who have experienced healthy relationships throughout their lives. Mastering these skills can be helpful for anyone, but especially for individuals who have experienced trauma or struggle with an attachment disorder. These skills are extremely important because the way we communicate with others has a significant impact on the quality of our relationships and on the outcome of our interactions. In order to communicate more effectively, DBT teaches skills that help you approach conversations in a more thoughtful and deliberate manner rather than acting and reacting impulsively due to stress or intense emotions.

Is DBT Right for Me?

Although DBT was originally created for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, chronic suicidal ideation and parasuicidal behavior, DBT has been shown to be effective in treating:

  • Relationship Issues
  • Interpersonal Trauma
  • Attachment Disorders
  • PTSD
  • Childhood Abuse
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder