Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of psychotherapy that is effective for people who have trouble managing strong emotions and problem behaviors. 

“Dialectic” means that two opposite ideas can be true at the same time, and when those ideas are viewed together, they can create a new way of seeing a situation. The dialectic at the heart of DBT is acceptance and change.

In DBT, individuals are taught skills that enable them to experience their emotions without necessarily acting on them. They are also taught to replace problematic behaviors, such as self-injury or bingeing and purging, with skillful ones. DBT provides therapeutic skills in four key areas:

  • Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment
  • Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations without the situation getting worse
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
  • Emotion Regulation: how to manage and express your emotions appropriately

These skills help people focus on decreasing suffering, improving relationships, and creating a life worth living. Each individual is in charge of their own specific goals during treatment; they work with their treatment team to determine how to utilize the skills they learn in DBT to accomplish these goals.

Who does DBT work for?

DBT works for adolescents and adults who experience strong emotions and have symptoms such as:

  • Suicidality
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • Dissociation
  • Quickly-changing moods
  • Extreme stubbornness
  • Substance use
  • Bingeing and purging

DBT is most effective for people who are committed to creating a life worth living and who are willing to engage in:

  • Weekly individual therapy
  • Weekly DBT group sessions
  • Out-of-session skills coaching on an as-needed basis