Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Kevin-Dunn-Behavioral-Technician-Oak Forest Recovery

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others.

DBT can help people who have difficulty with emotional regulation or are exhibiting self-destructive behaviors (eating disorders and substance use disorders). DBT is sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How It Works

DBT has evolved to become an evidence-based psychotherapy approach that is used to treat many conditions. DBT is used in three therapeutic settings.

Group settings where patients are taught behavioral skills by completing homework assignments and role-playing new ways of interacting with others.

Individual therapy with a trained professional where a patient’s learned behavioral skills are adapted to their personal life challenges.

Phone coaching in which patients can call the therapist between sessions to receive guidance on coping with a difficult situation they are currently in.

Each therapeutic setting has its own structure and goals, but the characteristics of DBT can be found in group skills training, individual psychotherapy, and phone coaching.

Acceptance and change. You’ll learn strategies to accept and tolerate your life circumstances, emotions, and yourself. You will also develop skills that can help you make positive changes in your behaviors and interactions with others.

Behavioral. You’ll learn to analyze problems or destructive behavior patterns and replace them with more healthy and effective ones.

Cognitive. You’ll focus on changing thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and actions that are not effective or helpful.  

Collaboration. You’ll learn to communicate effectively and work together as a team (therapist, group therapist, psychiatrist).

Skill sets. You’ll learn new skills to enhance your capabilities.

Support. You’ll be encouraged to recognize your positive strengths and attributes and develop and use them.

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