Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Life worth livingDialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, was originally created by Marsha Linehan to treat clients who experience strong suicidal urges; however, the skills that Linehan developed proved to be helpful to a much broader population, and DBT has been successfully implemented to treat depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health concerns. As I have learned DBT skills, I have found them to be incredibly helpful in my own life, and I consider them helpful for anyone with significant emotions.

DBT is built around a core set of mindfulness skills. I conceptualize mindfulness as having two components:

  1. the practice of awareness and acceptance of your full experience in the present moment and
  2. the orientation of your attention to those things in your experience which will help you pursue your values.

DBT emphasizes the importance of non-judgmentally observing your experience and fully participating in your present moment.

Building on these mindfulness skills, DBT teaches three additional sets of skills:

  1. Emotion regulation: These skills help us to change our emotional experience, increasing the positive emotions that we build into our lives and decreasing our vulnerability to negative emotions.
  2. Interpersonal effectiveness: Interpersonal effectiveness skills teach us how to communicate our wants and needs, how to build and maintain our relationships, and how to interact with others in a way that is consistent with our values.
  3. Distress tolerance.  Finally, when we are highly upset, distress tolerance skills help us to avoid making things worse so that we can cool down and use other skills to solve the problem.

DBT is structured so that a client attends a weekly skills class that teaches the four modules of skills: 1) mindfulness, 2) emotion regulation, 3) interpersonal effectiveness, and 4) distress tolerance. The skills class includes homework to practice these skills and a discussion of how to improve your use of the skills. To participate in a DBT skills class, a client must also be in individual therapy with a DBT therapist. In individual sessions, a client will discuss his/her problematic behaviors and apply DBT skills to identify solutions for changes in these behaviors.

I have completed the DBT Intensive Training with a team of DBT therapists in the Triangle, and I am available to work with clients individually as they participate in skills classes. If you are interested in working with me, please click here to contact me.