A Guide to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on helping people cope with difficult thoughts, emotions, and situations. It is based on the idea that by developing mindfulness and healthy emotional regulation skills, individuals can learn to better manage their behavior in order to lead healthier lives. DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s as a treatment for borderline personality disorder but has since been applied to various other mental health issues. Let’s take a closer look at this groundbreaking therapy.

What Is DBT?

The core components of DBT are acceptance and change. This means that the therapist helps you accept yourself, your circumstances, and your environment while still striving for change and growth. To do this, DBT teaches a variety of different skills, such as distress tolerance, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness. These skills can then be applied to any area of life where you are struggling or have difficulty managing your emotions or behaviors.

How Does it Work?

Typically when practicing DBT, you will attend weekly individual therapy sessions with a qualified therapist who will help you understand the concept of dialectics—acknowledging two opposing truths at once—and how it applies to your life.


You will also join group sessions where you can practice skills like distress tolerance and emotion regulation with other people who understand what it’s like living with mental illness or challenging circumstances. As well as these two components, there is also ‘phone coaching,’ which allows you to call your therapist if you need assistance between sessions or during an intense moment of distress.

Who Can Benefit from DBT?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can benefit individuals who struggle with intense emotions, impulsive behaviors, and difficulty regulating their emotions. It was originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder but has since been used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including:


Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. It can also cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that involve excessive and persistent worry or fear that interferes with daily activities. Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are mental health conditions that involve abnormal eating habits and attitudes toward food and body weight. Examples include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Substance use disorders

Substance use disorders involve the repeated use of drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences. Examples include alcohol use disorder, opioid use disorder, and stimulant use disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as combat, sexual assault, or a natural disaster. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, and hyperarousal.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that involves cycling between periods of mania and depression. During a manic episode, an individual may experience elevated mood, increased energy, and impulsive behavior. During a depressive episode, an individual may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

A mental health condition characterized by persistent, intrusive thoughts or images (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) that individuals feel driven to perform.

Self-harm behaviors and suicidal ideation

A group of behaviors characterized by intentional harm to oneself. These behaviors may include cutting, burning, or other forms of self-injury. Suicidal ideation refers to thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Relationship difficulties

Difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships with others, which may be related to a variety of factors, including personality disorders, attachment issues, and trauma.


DBT can be particularly helpful for individuals who have experienced trauma, as it provides them with tools to regulate their emotions and cope with distressing memories and experiences.


DBT is a skills-based therapy that can benefit individuals who are motivated to learn new coping skills and are willing to practice these skills regularly. It involves individual therapy sessions as well as skills training groups, which provide individuals with opportunities to practice skills such as mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.


It’s important to note that DBT may not be the best fit for everyone, and a healthcare provider can help determine which type of therapy may be most effective for an individual’s specific needs.


In conclusion, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a powerful tool for those looking to take control over their thoughts and behaviors in order to lead healthier lives. Through individual counseling sessions along with group meetings and phone coaching sessions, individuals work on developing coping mechanisms which allow them to regulate their emotions more effectively while learning how to accept themselves in order to strive toward meaningful change. If you think that DBT could be beneficial for you or someone close to you, then speak to your doctor today about finding an accredited practitioner near you!