Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a modified type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 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 was originally intended to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it has been adapted to treat other mental health conditions. It can help people who have difficulty with emotional regulation or are exhibiting self-destructive behaviors (such as eating disorders and substance use disorders. This type of therapy is also sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“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.
DBT was developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan and colleagues when they discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) alone did not work as well as expected in patients with BPD. Dr. Linehan and her team added techniques and developed a treatment to meet the unique needs of these individuals. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is especially effective for people who have difficulty managing and regulating their emotions.
Though developed with BPD in mind, has proven to be effective for treating and managing a wide range of mental health conditions, including:
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.
In DBT, the patient and therapist work to resolve the apparent contradiction between self-acceptance and change to bring about positive changes in the individual in treatment. Part of this process involves offering validation, which helps people become more likely to cooperate and less likely to experience distress at the idea of change.
In practice, the therapist validates that an individual’s actions “make sense” within the context of their personal experiences without necessarily agreeing that the actions are the best approach to solving a problem.
Each therapeutic setting has its own structure and goals, but the characteristics of DBT can be found in group skills training and individual psychotherapy.
The main goal of therapists who use dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is to strike a balance between validation (acceptance) of who you are and your challenges and the benefits of change. Your therapist will help you learn new skills to improve emotion regulation.
The structure of dialectical behavior therapy can vary some from therapist to therapist, but, in general, DBT involves these four types of sessions:
Your therapist may offer an assessment before starting DBT. They’ll determine how suitable DBT is for you by asking you questions and explaining how DBT works. If you decide that DBT is the right therapy for you, they’ll ask you to commit to the treatment and the length of treatment.
Individual DBT therapy sessions have the following goals:
Your therapist will likely ask you to keep a journal to track your emotions and actions and to look for patterns of behavior. You’ll bring this diary with you to your sessions so you and your therapist can decide what to work on for each session.
In group sessions sessions, your therapist will teach you skills in a group setting. This isn’t to be confused with group therapy, in which you discuss your problems with others. Think of it more like a teaching and learning session in a classroom setting.
DBT skills aim to help enhance your capabilities in day-to-day life. The four skills your therapist will teach include:
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been proven to help people with their mental health conditions in several studies. For people with borderline personality disorder, in particular, DBT results in:
However, DBT isn’t for everyone, and it can be very difficult. DBT is more likely to work for you if you:
The best way to find out if DBT is right for you is to ask your provider, current therapist, or another trusted mental health professional to refer you to a colleague who specializes in DBT. You may also find online therapists who offer DBT therapy. A professional who is trained in the method will evaluate your symptoms, treatment history, and therapy goals to see if DBT might be a good fit.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an effective treatment to help people who experience very intense, negative emotions. Although it may be difficult and time-consuming to find the right DBT therapist for you, it’s important to keep trying. The sooner you can start therapy — and stay committed to it — the sooner you’ll have an improved quality of life.
Healing Minds is adding a second location in Reno, which will operate solely as a center for dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. The new Healing Minds will be located on Reno Corporate Drive across from the new Sierra Medical Center. The second location will operate solely as a center for dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT.
This new center is just one of the ways Healing Minds continues to lead the way for mental health in Northern Nevada. We employ a dedicated team of counselors and therapists in Reno, NV, who share a deep commitment for helping individuals and families rebuild and improve their lives. Our team offers a range of services to treat mental health issues, including individual therapy, group therapy, DBT, family counseling, and Telehealth therapy. At Healing Minds, we believe that everyone can benefit from therapy and our mission is to become a resource for mental health and stability in our community.
Our new location is slated to open in early 2023. Stay tuned for more updates on our new DBT center and reach out to get started on your mental health journey today.
At Healing Minds, we have therapists that can help you deal with difficult times and mental health issues using DBT. Working with a therapist can make the difference you need to step towards a full, whole life once again.