What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP. It emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living. DBT skills include skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

What skills are taught in DBT?
  • Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment

  • Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it

  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others

  • Emotion Regulation: how to change emotions that you want to change

What are the components of DBT?
  • DBT skills training group is focused on enhancing clients' capabilities by teaching them behavioral skills. The group is run like a class where the group leader teaches the skills and assigns homework for clients to practice using the skills in their everyday lives

  • DBT individual therapy is focused on enhancing client motivation and helping clients to apply the skills to specific challenges and events in their lives.

  • DBT phone coaching is focused on producing clients with in-the-moment coaching on how to use skills to effectively cope with difficult situations that arise in their everyday lives.

  • DBT therapist consultation team is intended to be therapy for the therapist and to support DBT providers in their work with people who often have severe, complex, difficult-to-treat disorders. The consultation team is designed to help therapists stay motivated and competent so they can provide the best treatment possible.

How does DBT prioritize treatment targets?
  • Life-threatenthing behaviors: behaviors that could lead to the client's death are targeted, including all forms of suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury, suicidal ideation, suicide communications, and other behaviors engaged in for the purpose of causing bodily harm. 

  • Therapy-interfering behaviors: these behaviors can be on the part of the client and of the therapist, such as coming late to sessions, cancelling appointments, etc.

  • Quality of life behaviors: any other type of behavior that interferes with clients having a reasonable quality of life, such as mental disorders, relationship problems, and financial or housing crises

  • Skills acquisition: this refers to the need for clients to learn new skillful behaviors to replace ineffective behaviors and help them achieve their goals

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