Dialectical Behavior Therapy

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., designed Dialectical Behavior Therapy in the early 1990’s. It was developed to help people who have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and who experience intense emotions and are at a high risk of harming themselves. Many studies over the past 25 years indicate that DBT can also benefit a variety of mental health disorders. The name Borderline Personality Disorder is often misleading and is better characterized as an emotion dysregulation disorder. People diagnosed with BPD may experience frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, unstable and intense relationships, identity disturbance, impulsivity, recurrent suicidal behavior, affective instability, chronic feelings of emptiness, intense anger, and dissociation.

DBT is an intensive therapy that offers participants weekly therapy sessions, skills training classes, and access to 24-hour phone coaching. The DBT Team consists of licensed therapists, case coordinators, and a peer support. Team members participate in annual training and ongoing consultation to ensure fidelity to the model. DBT therapists are also trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy Prolonged Exposure, which is a treatment designed to address PTSD and trauma.

DBT helps participants to better mange their life by teaching ways to:

  • Cope with strong emotions
  • Handle conflict in relationships
  • Manage distressing thoughts, urges, and behaviors
  • Prevent and learn how to survive through life crises
  • Learn to live in the present moment

Distress Tolerance Skills

These skills help participants survive crises and tolerate intense, painful emotions. These skills result in less impulsive and self-destructive behaviors.

Emotion Regulation Skills

Emotion Regulation skills help participants understand emotions, learn ways to reduce intense emotions, and learn ways to generate positive emotions.

Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

These help individuals develop communication skills to improve relationships, be more effective at saying ‘no,’ as well as how to ask for things.

Core Mindfulness Skills

Teaches participants ways to stay in the present moment, take control of their mind, and learn different ways to make effective and less impulsive decisions.