Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. as a treatment for individuals who experience emotion dysregulation.

The central idea is that individuals are doing they best they can, but at the same time, need to make changes. DBT is support-oriented – we’ll identify your strengths and build on them. Through helping you identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder, we can assist you in developing new ways of thinking that will make life more bearable.

Learning new behaviors is critical to DBT and is the main focus of all sessions. Through emphasizing change and validating your experiences, we are here to motivate you, enhance your capabilities, and help you generalize what you learn in session to your environments. This service is offered for adolescents and adults.

Individual Skills Training

DBT typically requires a one-year commitment to weekly individual sessions. Each session is 45-50 minutes long. Clients keep a diary card on a daily basis. The session begins with a short mindfulness exercise. Next, we will review your diary cards and homework to determine the next step in applying your skills. After problem-solving situations from your diary card and learning our next skill set, we will assign new homework and end with another round of mindfulness. Throughout the session, the therapist teaches and reinforces adaptive behaviors, emphasizing how to manage symptoms rather than reduce them.

Group Skills Training

DBT typically requires that in conjunction to individual therapy, you attend a DBT skills group weekly for one and a half hours for at least one year. Unlike regular psychotherapy groups, DBT groups are similar to classes in which you will learn the four modules listed below. Each module lasts eight weeks.

 Targets and Goals

The most important goal of DBT is helping clients create a life worth living. This will look different for each person – some may find a career, others a marriage and children, to be  their end goal. DBT targets getting you in control of your behaviors through skills acquisition. After gaining control of your behaviors, we want to move you towards experiencing emotions fully! This can sound intimidating, but we don’t want you to suffer in silence. The therapist will teach you to experience all emotions without shutting them down or letting them take control.

The next target is solving ordinary daily life problems, such as career goals or marital conflict. This can be done with or without your therapist, or with a different form of therapy. The final step is returning to therapy and moving toward completeness and connection.

Modules and Tools

There are four modules/skills covered in DBT:

  • Mindfulness: The foundation for all other DBT skills, mindful awareness is the ability to pay attention in the moment nonjudgmentally, experiencing your senses fully, with perspective.
  • Distress Tolerance: This module focuses on the ability to accept in a nonjudgmental fashion both yourself and the current situation. Learning to self-soothe, improve the moment, and recognize negative situations and their impact without getting caught up in destructive emotional responses is the goal.
  • Emotion Regulation: Through identifying and labeling emotions and obstacles to changing them, we are able to learn to regulate our emotions. By using mindfulness, reducing vulnerabilities, and taking opposite actions, emotional regulation builds upon the other DBT modules.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: These skills include effective strategies for asking for what you need, saying no, and coping with conflict. This module is intended to increase the chances of your goals being met in specific situations without damaging your relationships or your self-worth.

Who Will Benefit?

DBT can be advantageous for various conditions:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Trauma
  • Anger
  • Emotional dysregulation

Clinicians Offering This Service