Updated: Nov 18
What is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)?
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). It’s based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but it’s specially adapted for people who experience emotions very intensely. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps people understand how thoughts affect emotions and behaviors.
“Dialectical” means combining opposite ideas. DBT focuses on helping people accept the reality of their lives and their behaviors, as well as helping them learn to change their lives, including their unhelpful behaviors. Dialectical behavior therapy was developed in the 1970s by Marsha Linehan, an American psychologist.
What is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) used for?
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is especially effective for people who have difficulty managing and regulating their emotions.
DBT has proven to be effective for treating and managing a wide range of mental health conditions, including:
Borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Substance use disorder.
Eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder and bulimia.
It’s important to note that the reason DBT has proved effective for treating these conditions is that each of these conditions is thought to be associated with issues that result from unhealthy or problematic efforts to control intense, negative emotions. Rather than depending on efforts that cause problems for the person, DBT helps people learn healthier ways to cope.
DBT skills aim to help enhance your capabilities in day-to-day life. The four skills your therapist will teach include:
Mindfulness: This is the practice of being fully aware and focused in the present instead of worrying about the past or future.
Distress tolerance: This involves understanding and managing your emotions in difficult or stressful situations without responding with harmful behaviors.
Interpersonal effectiveness: This means understanding how to ask for what you want and need and setting boundaries while maintaining respect for yourself and others.
Emotion regulation: This means understanding, being more aware of and having more control over your emotions.
Source: Cleveland Clinic