Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1980s, is a highly effective therapy designed to help people change patterns of behavior that are not helpful, such as self-harm, suicidal ideation, chaotic and unstable relationship issues, and substance abuse. DBT teaches people to regulate their emotions and thoughts and to understand their individual triggers that lead to harmful behaviors and depression. People learn to assess which coping skills to apply to help avoid undesired reactions. This therapy is appropriate for both adults and adolescents.

Mental health issues treated with DBT:

  • Intense, uncontrollable emotional overwhelm
  • Persistent depressive mood and radical mood swings
  • Patterns of self-inflicted injury and high-risk, self-destructive behaviors
  • Thoughts of suicide or lethal suicidal attempts
  • Chronic anxieties and fears
  • Difficulties in interpersonal relationships at home, at work, or in society
  • Being misunderstood, mis-interpreted, or being unfairly or maliciously treated by others
  • A sense of emptiness, dread, and foreboding
  • Uncertainties about who you are as a person and your purpose in life
  • Profound fears of neglect and abandonment by significant others
  • Dissociative experiences and fugue states

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is an integrated treatment approach combining weekly individual psychotherapy sessions and weekly DBT skill building group therapy sessions. It combines Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques with eastern spirituality and a focus on four areas.

  1. Mindfulness– Clients learn how to be present and clear in the current moment.
  2. Distress Tolerance– Clients learn effective ways to increase their tolerance of stressful situations instead of avoiding them. For example, using exercise, self-soothing techniques or getting outside one’s self by focusing on helping others.
  3. Emotion Regulation– Clients develop and use strategies to manage and change intense, problem causing emotions.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness– Using communication techniques that allow for self-respect and strengthened relationships.

In a DBT skills group clients practice skills together and are encouraged to share their experiences and support each other in their treatment.  The therapist teaches skills, leads exercises and will assign homework to allow clients additional skills practice.  Each group session lasts approximately two hours, and groups typically meet weekly for six months.

To learn more about the what it is like to go through DBT, read about one client’s experience here.

To find a therapist at Ascendant Behavioral Health Clinics that specializes in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy go to Our Staff.