Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy effective in the treatment of suicidal and self-destructive behaviors. 

It focuses on providing coping skills as well as teaching clients how to change unhealthy behaviors. 

Dialectical refers to combining two opposite approaches to therapy: 1) Acceptance and 2) Change. When clients learn to continually balance acceptance with positive behavioral changes, they can lead a more productive, joyful life. 

In today’s blog post, we discuss five things you should know about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.


1. What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?

DBT brings together opposing therapies to see better results. It combines acceptance and change, so clients learn to accept their experiences as a form of reassurance and then work to change negative behaviors resulting from their experiences. 

It is an evidence-based treatment focused on enhancing four critical life skills:

  1. Distress tolerance: Managing intense emotions like anger and avoiding impulsive reactions such as substance abuse or self-injury.
  2. Emotion regulation: Recognizing, labeling, and adjusting emotions to remain more in control of them.
  3. Mindfulness: Self-awareness and remaining present in the moment.
  4. Interpersonal effectiveness: Managing conflict and becoming more assertive in interactions.

2. DBT Uses a Multi-stage Approach

DBT’s multi-stage approach is geared toward clients de-escalating risks of self-destructive behavior first before moving on to the next stages to acquire skills to manage their emotions, negative behavior, and improved relationships. 

The four stages include:

  1. Treating self-destructive behavior.
  2. Teaching emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness to improve quality of life.
  3. Improving self-esteem and interpersonal skills.
  4. Promoting joy and meaningful relationship connections.

The typical DBT treatment requires weekly one-hour individual therapy sessions in hand with group sessions of 1.5–2.5 hours.

3. DBT is Focused on High-Risk Clients

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a treatment designed for higher-risk clients demonstrating suicidal behavior and borderline personality disorders causing serious emotional distress. 

DBT is very effective in teaching clients to manage issues such as intense emotional outbursts and mood shifts. It also treats issues for those who have instability in their self-image, thinking, relationships and behaviors. Additionally, the American Psychiatric Association has endorsed DBT to treat borderline personality disorder.

4. DBT Gets Good Results

DBT offers common improvements that include:

  • Reduction in the severity and frequency of suicidal behavior
  • Reduced hospitalization times
  • Decreased anger
  • Improved commitment to treatment
  • Improved social function

5. DBT for Treatment-Resistant Depression

Studies also show DBT can be effective for those suffering from treatment-resistant depression who did not respond to stable medication treatment. 

Treatment-resistant depression can result in functional and social impairment for people unable to use medications to balance mood. Dialectical behavior therapy-based skills training provided skill sets that significantly improved depressive symptoms compared to participants who did not undergo DBT.  

DBT can offer hope for clients suffering from multiple mental health issues as well as those who are suicidal or self-injurious. It is worth a conversation with your mental healthcare provider to learn more about the treatment and whether it is suitable for you or a loved one.

About Samaritan Counseling Center

Our Vision: Samaritan Counseling Center’s vision is to empower communities, families, and individuals in their journey to live the best version of themselves.

Our Mission: Samaritan engages all people as they are – mentally, spiritually, financially – offering evidence-based psychological care for hope, help, and healing.

Our Values: Teamwork, Client Satisfaction, Clinical Excellence, Community Engagement, Inclusiveness, Gratitude

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