Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy that is founded on the principals of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In the 1980s, Marsha M. Linehan developed DBT as a means to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). While dialectical behavior therapy incorporates many aspects of the CBT approach, it differs in that DBT places primary emphasis on the psychosocial aspect of treatment. Since its inception, dialectical behavior therapy has not only become the gold standard for treating individuals with BPD, but has also become known an effective treatment method for other mental health disorders (e.g. depression, bulimia, bing-eating disorder, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, etc.).
The purpose of DBT, according to Psychology Today is to teach individuals applicable skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflicts in relationships.
Dialectical behavior therapy is comprised of three distinct components: weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, weekly group DBT skills training sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. One-on-one therapy sessions are intended to provide personalized support for individuals with processing experiences, addressing issues, navigating challenges and identifying successes that occurred in the previous week. The group DBT skills training sessions are used to teach and help facilitate building upon skills in four core areas:
- Mindfulness: skills focused on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in any given moment.
- Distress tolerance: skills focused on increasing an individual’s tolerance of negative emotions instead of attempting to avoid or escape from them.
- Interpersonal effectiveness: skills focused on increasing an individual’s communication strategies.
- Emotion regulation: skills focused on helping an individual identify, name, and understand the function of emotions, and increasing one’s ability to regulate emotions.
Dialectical behavior therapy has a homework component, which is to be completed by participants outside of the DBT group skills training session. Additional support is provided via phone coaching, which is available between sessions, if needed. Approximately six weeks are spent on focusing on each of the four areas. The entire DBT program (if skills modules are not repeated) will last about six months long.
Supportive Resources and DBT Workbooks
Dialectical behavior therapy has been in existence for less than fifty years, yet there is a plethora of DBT-specific supportive resources available, including a variety of DBT workbooks that have been published. Some of the most widely known and commonly used DBT workbooks include, but are not limited to the following:
- The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercised for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Distress Tolerance by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood and Jeffrey Brantley
- DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition by Marsha M. Linehan
- Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life (How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control) by Scott E. Spradlin
- Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors by Pat Harvey and Jeanine Penzo
- Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills for Helping You Manage Mood Swings, Control Angry Outbursts, and Get Along With Others by Sheri Van Dijk
Please note that there continue to be additional supportive DBT resources, including different DBT workbooks published, regularly. Dialectical behavior therapy encourages individuals to take an active role in the treatment process, and by working in a DBT workbook participants are left with a tangible and personalized resource.
The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above as a means to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.