Dialectical behavior therapy: What is it and who can it help?

Linehan found that standard CBT often led patients to become hostile or to abandon therapeutic programs altogether, because the patients tended to experience the programs’ emphasis on life changes as invalidating. DBT is one of several forms of psychotherapy that were developed in what is known as the “third wave” of CBT programs. These treatments focused on the importance of expressing acceptance of patient experiences rather than avoiding or condemning them. DBT is unique in that it embraces the dialectics of this treatment—that is, the conflict between accepting all feelings and behaviours without judgment while still attempting to change them. In addition, research has shown that it is effective in treating a wide range of other disorders such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

dialectical behavioral therapy meaning

Side effects of dependence include withdrawal symptoms that are opposite to the effects of alcohol, including anxiety and depression. Repeated alcohol abuse can cause mood swings and difficult emotions to worsen. DBT can help a person learn how to cope with these emotions and provide tools for managing them. It can also help clients to work through potential triggers and curb self-destructive and maladaptive behaviors. One of the most common tools used in DBT is “diary cards,” designed to help you track your daily thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in between sessions. One section contains space for you to rate your urges to use destructive behaviors — like self-harm or substance use — while the other contains a list of DBT skills for you to check off as you practice them.

What are the benefits and risks of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)?

Currently, there is no certification in DBT as a specialty or as a special proficiency. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on teaching individuals skills to cope with stress, regulate emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, and develop mindfulness. It was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder but has since been adapted for various mental health conditions.

dialectical behavioral therapy meaning

For example, a primary emotion of anger might lead to guilt, worthlessness, shame, and even depression. However, DBT puts a little more emphasis on managing emotions and interpersonal relationships. This is largely because it was originally developed as a treatment for BPD, which is often marked by dramatic swings in mood and behavior that can make having relationships with others difficult. As with the DBT services for adults, there is also an outpatient Multifamily DBT Skills training group offered to teens and their caregivers to reinforce the use of DBT skills at home. This group is often a step-down for youth and caregivers completing the Adolescent DBT IOP track, though patients may be admitted to this group directly, depending on needs. DBT appears to be an effective therapy for BPD and other issues that can be challenging to treat, including substance misuse and eating disorders.

Critical and Unique Elements of DBT

This might be a good thing to have in your back pocket if you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed or just need a bit of extra support. During skills group, you’ll learn about and practice each skill, talking through scenarios with other people in your group. DBT uses three types of therapy approaches to teach the four core skills discussed above. Some believe this combination of techniques is part of what makes DBT so effective. Distress tolerance skills help you get through rough patches without turning to potentially destructive coping techniques. Mindfulness is about being aware of and accepting what’s happening in the present moment.

Developed as an adaptation of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), DBT aims to empower individuals by helping them gain a comprehensive understanding of their challenging emotions and providing them with practical skills to effectively manage these emotions. Mindfulness and distress tolerance skills help you work toward acceptance of your thoughts and behaviors. Emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness skills help you work toward changing your thoughts and behaviors. Realizing some patients needed a different kind of emotional support and skills training, Linehan created dialectical behavioral therapy.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Overall, DBT demonstrates efficacy in reducing dysfunctional behaviors and improving emotion regulation across disorders. For example, DBT skills training alone led to significant improvements in binge eating disorder for adolescents (Kamody et al., 2019). The therapist does this by applying dialectical, validation, and problem-solving skills to enable the clients to learn to be their own managers of personal life challenges. To demonstrate interpersonal effectiveness, clients are often given roleplay scenarios to practice assertiveness skills. This may involve refusing an unreasonable request or asking to have a need met appropriately. Findings from multiple studies reflect the efficacy of DBT, especially for the treatment of borderline personality issues, posttraumatic stress, self-harm, and suicidality.

Read on to learn more about the use of DBT for addiction and how it is a form of therapy which is often used during treatment for alcohol. Stages are defined by the severity of the client’s behaviors, and therapists work with their clients to reach the goals of each stage in their progress toward having a life that they experience as worth living. DBT was initially designed to treat people with suicidal behavior and borderline personality disorder. But it has been adapted for other mental health problems that threaten a person’s safety, relationships, work, and emotional well-being.

During stage 2, individuals will work on their emotional pain and traumatic experiences. Therapists help clients to identify unhelpful thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs. If you are suffering from suicidal ideation, self-harm behaviors, or another mental health condition, you are not alone. If you are interested in exploring or think you could benefit from dialectical behavior therapy, talk with a healthcare provider or mental health professional about getting a referral to a DBT therapist in your area. Because DBT is a demanding therapy to deliver even for experienced therapists, therapists typically work in consultation with a treatment team and regularly meet with a team. The team’s recommendations are often applied in individual therapy sessions.

  • This might be a good thing to have in your back pocket if you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed or just need a bit of extra support.
  • For example, finding a “both-and” approach to understanding one’s own behaviour and feelings helps that individual see an experience as being both biologically and socially induced as well as both acceptable and changeable.
  • Therapists help clients to identify unhelpful thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs.
  • Overall, DBT demonstrates efficacy in reducing dysfunctional behaviors and improving emotion regulation across disorders.

Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of therapy that was developed from cognitive behavioral therapy. It involves distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness skills. Although designed for people with suicidal behaviors, self-harm behaviors, and borderline personality disorder, it is an effective treatment for many other mental health disorders. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive-behavioral treatment developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan. Primarily used for individuals with borderline personality disorder, DBT emphasizes the balance between acceptance and change.

After analyzing these problems, Linehan devised several adaptations to CBT. Acceptance-based techniques were included to ensure participants felt supported and validated before they were asked to focus on change. In addition, dialectics were incorporated to allow therapists dialectical behavioral therapy and participants in treatment to focus on the synthesis of polar opposites, such as acceptance and change. This helped them to avoid becoming trapped in patterns of extreme position-taking. Currently, DBT is used to treat people with chronic or severe mental health issues.

dialectical behavioral therapy meaning