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What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is an evidence-based treatment for a variety of mental health struggles. Its focus is on helping people build meaningful lives by reducing emotional suffering and increasing emotional knowledge and resiliency.

While originally created to treat borderline personality disorder and self-harm, research demonstrates that DBT can effectively treat depression, PTSD, eating disorders, substance use disorders, ADHD, and more.

Really, DBT skills are "life skills" that can be helpful in improving mental health for everyone.

DBT Treatment and its four components

Comprehensive DBT always involves four main components: individual therapy, DBT skills group, phone coaching, and consultation team (for the therapist). Treatment usually lasts 6-18 months. This article offers more information about each of these modalities, as well as the different stages of treatment. This video is also great. While not everyone needs comprehensive DBT, this 6-12-month, 4-pronged structure is the treatment shown by research to be most effective in treating BPD, (c)PTSD, and other significant mental health disorders. 

Four Modules of DBT Skills

DBT skills cover four modules:

Mindfulness: techniques for nonjudgmentally paying attention in the present moment in order to find wisdom and peace.

Emotion regulation: emotional education, tools for changing emotions you don't want to feel, and methods for reducing your vulnerability to stress and painful emotions.

Distress tolerance: strategies for coping with intense distress and radically accepting life's pains.

Interpersonal effectiveness: skills for asserting your needs, validating others, and improving relationships.

DBT's Dialectical Balance of Acceptance and Change

DBT is a form of cognitive behavior therapy. But, it's unique from traditional CBT in its focus on dialectics: the concept that two seemingly-opposite things can be true at the same time. One of the main dialectics of DBT is its balance of acceptance and change. DBT is also dialectically flexible in its principles-based approach--individual DBT is goal-oriented and behaviorally specific, but sessions do not follow a set protocol. (Traditional DBT skills group, however, does follow a set schedule, and is more like a class than typical group therapy.)

For more information on DBT, how to find a DBT therapist, or how to become a DBT therapist:
see my Resources page or the Behavioral Tech Institute.

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