What is DBT?

DBT - Dialectical Behavior TherapyDBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy – an innovative and effective form of psychotherapy designed to help you work with your emotions, your thoughts, and your behavior. Developed by a Marsha Linehan as a way to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), DBT combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and “reality-testing” with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness. DBT is widely accepted as a highly effective, evidence based method of therapy which focuses on helping an individual to spend time exploring and “feeling” their emotions rather than avoiding them. What makes it different than more traditional therapies is that it focuses on ones feelings rather than their thoughts and it focuses on long term goals more than immediate goals.


How does DBT work?

As a skills based approach to therapy, DBT is highly effective to treat clients at all levels of severity and can be accomplished in a group setting or individually. My practice focuses on individual DBT therapy because, while a group setting helps create cohesiveness through shared experience, I’ve found in my practice that I can personalize my DBT treatment to each individual client more effectively and that my clients are more able to be open, honest and self-introspective in an individual setting.

DBT focuses on building skills to help us manage everyday problems, focusing primarily on four things: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal relations.

  1. Mindfulness (Living in the present): Paying attention, in a non-judgemental way, to the present moment in order to help live in the moment and experience life fully but with perspective.
  2. Distress Tolerance (The art of coping): While other forms of therapy focus on treating and avoiding the challenges of life, this therapy focuses on the simple, but rarely easy, task of learning to tolerate distress.
  3. Emotion Regulation (Controlling our feelings): An important component of tolerating distress is learning how to regulate our own emotions.
  4. Interpersonal Relations (Playing nice with others): Learning how to ask for what one needs, the art of saying no, and dealing with interpersonal conflict.

DBT was originally focused on clients that were raised in profoundly invalidating environments and therefore required unconditional acceptance from all of those around them. Therefore, DBT strives to help a client create an ally of their therapist, rather than an adversary, in the treatment of psychological issues. At the same time, the therapist works to accept and validate the client’s feelings at any given time while still informing the client that some feelings and behaviors are maladaptive, and showing them better alternatives. Accordingly, there is a focus on the dialectics of life, that is, that there is always more than one way to solve a problem and the idea that change is the only constant. DBT explores and encourages the fact that all people have unique and different qualities and that “black and white” thinking constrains us to relive the past. DBT also challenges us to accept synthesis of opposites, meaning two things that are opposite can both be true. For example, it can be difficult to accept that we can be both tough and gentle.


Will DBT work for me or my loved one?

While DBT is a proven and structured program, like all therapies, it is highly personal and one of the main benefits of my individual DBT program is that it is personalized to the needs of each client. To schedule an appointment or to learn more about DBT and if this unique treatment option can help you or someone you care about, please call me at 970.903.0465 or email me to find out more.