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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment that combines standard cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques for emotional regulation and reality testing with concepts derived from Buddhist meditative practice such as awareness, mindfulness and attentiveness to current situations and emotional experiences to encourage acceptance. Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed DBT in the late 1980s, after the result of her own transformation that occurred in 1967. It is a therapeutic method specifically geared to treat individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), suffering from pervasive suicidal thoughts and/ or attempts. DBT emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment and promotes the systematic learning of new emotional coping skills.

DBT Basics

Dialectical behavior therapy is a multifaceted, rigidly structured therapeutic approach. It is carried out in three settings: weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, weekly DBT skills training group sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. Within each setting, DBT focuses on the teaching skills in four fundamental areas, known as the four modules, which are:

  • Core mindfulness: focuses on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in any given moment. The skills in this module help individuals learn the importance and value of slowing down and taking pause instead of succumbing to intense emotions and acting in destructive ways. 
  • Distress tolerance: focuses on increasing an individual’s tolerance of negative emotion as opposed to attempting to avoid or escape from it. The skills in this module help individuals learn various techniques for handling crisis (e.g., distraction, self-soothing, improving the moment, etc.). 
  • Emotion regulation: focuses on helping an individual identify, name, understand the function of, and regulate their emotions. The skills taught in this module are intended to help an individual learn to decrease the intensity of their emotions, sit with and experience strong emotions that are causing problems in one’s life, without impulsively acting on them. 
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: focuses on increasing an individual’s communication strategies. The skills taught in this module help an individual learn to identify what their own needs are in a relationship and develop assertive and effective communication methods to ensure those needs are met in a healthy, nondestructive way. 

Each module highlights distinct and specific skills that build upon each other and are individually and collectively integral to the success of this therapeutic intervention.

DBT Efficacy

Although it is impossible to postulate the universal effectiveness of DBT because it is used to treat a wide variety of mental health ailments, there are certain studies that indicate its efficacy. According to Behavioral Tech, DBT is works because it “assumes that many of the problems exhibited by clients are caused by skills deficits.” The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) asserts that DBT is effective in “reducing psychiatric hospitalization, substance use, and suicidal behavior.” Research has also found DBT to significantly reduce hospital stays, self-injurious behaviors, and the severity of borderline personality disorder symptoms. Results from one study showed that 77% of participants no longer met criteria for a BPD diagnosis after undergoing treatment. Still, the controlled and uncontrolled variables make it extremely challenging to measure the collective efficacy of DBT. 

Treatment In Calabasas

Calabasas is a city in California. It is a well-known suburb of Los Angeles, located west of the San Fernando Valley and north of the Santa Monica Mountains. Over the past decade, the city of Calabasas has grown in its reputation for luxury as well as for privacy which makes it a hidden gem for residential living for society’s elite, and one of the most desirable destinations in Los Angeles County. It is also home to a plethora of highly qualified mental health clinicians providing an array of therapeutic services and treatment options. 

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 to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.