DBT: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

I previously posted a little about Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT in the post, Therapies for Depression. However, I would also like a chance to explain it more in depth as it is the foremost therapy that is being taught at my outpatient program.

DBT was developed by Marsha M. Lineham in response to research regarding the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) towards people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, or traits of such. After realizing that CBT, a change based-strategy therapy, offered no validation, DBT was developed to bridge that gap. DBT still focuses on change, but that change was now based on the comfortability level of the client. In DBT, the therapist assures the patient that their behaviors and feelings are valid and understood but that negative or unhealthy behaviors needed to change for the benefit of the patient’s life.

This therapy is designed particularly for people vulnerable to emotions, which is why it is particularly effective for those people suffering from depression and anxiety. The term “dialectics” refers to resolving contradictions that exist between competing demands and wants. The assumption is that emotionally vulnerable people experience the major contradiction of needing acceptance or validation but also desiring change in their behaviors and lives.

There are four sets of behavioral skills taught in DBT; Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance. Acceptance is emphasized through mindfulness and distress tolerance, while change is emphasized through interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation.

Because I don’t want these posts to get too long, I have split this post into two. This first, will be followed by DBT: The Skills.

DBT Selp Help -A website written by people who have been treated with DBT

National Alliance on Mental Health – Fact Sheet

The Linehan Institute: Behavioral Tech – DBT Overview

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Handbook


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