What is DBT?

DBT, or dialectical behavior therapy, is a therapy modality created by psychologist Marsha Linehan. Originally developed for use with clients with borderline personality disorder, DBT has since been expanded for use with a variety of other conditions such as suicidal behaviors, mood disorders, eating disorders and PSTD.

DBT consists of four main components:

  1. Mindfulness Skills
  2. Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills
  3. Emotion Regulation Skills
  4. Distress Tolerance Skills

Mindfulness skills involves learning the act of focusing on the mind and the present moment. Being mindful means becoming aware of everything with a moment. When you learn to be mindful, you can learn to live life with your eyes wide open and focused on the present instead of looking to the past or future. Mindfulness is an important aspect of DBT to learn, because the concept is woven through the rest of the DBT skills.

Interpersonal effectiveness skills help one develop relationships with appropriate boundaries. Relationships often exist as a give and take, but when we give more than we take, we get burnt out. Learning interpersonal skills helps one navigate the give and take of relationships.

Emotion regulation skills involves first learning how to identify and name emotions appropriately. Sometimes it is difficult translating feelings into words. Once an emotion can be identified, the function of the emotion can be determined. Emotions can alert us to important events, so it is important to be aware of their function. From here, an individual can work to change the emotion into a more appropriate and adaptive emotion through a variety of skills.

Lastly, distress tolerance skills involve acknowledging that pain and distress are a part of life. From this acknowledgement an individual can learn skills to better accept life the way it is in the moment.

            Your therapist may recommend DBT depending on the nature of your problem. DBT is a very structured therapy that often involves work outside of the counseling session. Due to this, a strong commitment to therapy and motivation to change is often considered when choosing the most appropriate modality for you. If you think DBT may be right for you, here are some questions you can ask your therapist:

            Does DBT have evidence supporting its efficacy in treating my condition?

            Does DBT fit your counseling approach?

            Will DBT help me achieve my goals for therapy?

            DBT is used by several of our clinicians at Cy-Hope Counseling. If you desire treatment with DBT, please contact our office.

Written by: Kristina Zufall, M.Ed., LPC-Intern