What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy is a research-based talk therapy that can help with many different mental health issues.

What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?

The word “dialectic” describes procedures that bring together opposing notions, such as acceptance and change.

DBT is a cognitive-behavioral treatment that addresses a wide range of issues. This behavioral therapy can especially help patients if they have seen little or no progress with various other forms of treatment. This approach emphasizes acceptance-based and problem-solving tactics instead of just general talk-based therapy.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: Who Does it Benefit?

While talk-based therapy is greatly beneficial for many other patients, it doesn’t work for everyone. DBT is a great way to still get support while working through symptoms from mental health disorders.

DBT originally came to be to treat borderline personality disorder. However, adapted dialectical behavior therapy is increasingly used to treat various mental health problems. If you have difficulty managing your emotions or engage in self-destructive behavior, DBT is a way in order to help with symptoms. This therapy is also suitable for managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).1

What Are DBT Sessions Generally Like?

Dialectical behavior training might differ from one provider or location to another. However, the following sorts of sessions are often part of a DBT program.

DBT Pre-Treatment

A therapist may provide patients with a DBT screening or pre-treatment stage. The therapist will assess the patient’s suitability to start DBT treatment.

Individual Counseling

Individual counseling consists of weekly behavioral therapy training sessions. It is common to participate in a dialectical behavioral therapy intensive outpatient program, which is generally 45–60 minutes per session.

Individual sessions have several aims, including to prevent suicide and self-harm attempts and to reduce therapy-interfering behaviors. DBT also aims to support patients in achieving their goals and improving their quality of life. For instance, DBT therapy greatly enhances quality of life for those suffering from depression, BPD, anxiety, and hallucinations. 2

DBT also helps patients to replace unproductive habits and achieve their life objectives. Therapists may give their patients diary cards in order to help them keep track of their feelings, activities, and patterns in order to help figure out what makes them happy or unhappy.

Group Skill-Building

DBT group activities aim at helping you develop interpersonal skills. It isn’t group therapy, but rather a series of lessons done in the presence of more than one therapist to help you know how to manouver through your normal routines.

There are generally four skill components in dialectical psychology during group skill training, including mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. These will all be discussed in more detail below.

Counseling by Phone

DBT employs phone crisis counseling to help provide access and care around the clock. You may phone your treatment team between sessions to discuss any issues you might have.

Techniques for DBT

DBT has grown into an evidence-based psychotherapeutic strategy for addressing various issues. Here are some of the tactics and procedures that are often part of the dialectical behavior therapy training.

Core Mindfulness

The development of mindfulness abilities is one of the critical dialectical therapy benefits. Instead of dwelling on the past or the future, practicing mindfulness teaches you to focus on the present now.

As a result, DBT enables you to simultaneously become aware of your inner and exterior worlds, providing a more profound comprehension of these realms.

Emotional Control

Emotion regulation can help you deal with strong feelings more effectively. The techniques you acquire will assist you in recognizing, identifying, and altering your negative emotions and thought processes.3

Distress Tolerance

Acquiring skills to help tolerate crises or distress in daily life enables you to accept both yourself and your present situation. DBT provides a range of approaches to dealing with crises, including the following:

  • Distraction
  • Self-soothing
  • Improving the situation

Your ability to tolerate distress helps you be ready for intense feelings and gives you the tools to manage those feelings more constructively in the long term.

Effectiveness in Relationships

Relational effectiveness lets you be more assertive in a relationship by saying what you want while still keeping the relationship healthy and strong. You’ll get better at listening and talking to people, dealing with difficult people, and respecting yourself and others.

What Problems Can Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Help Treat?

DBT therapies often target high-risk and difficult-to-treat cases. Often, patients who exhibit these signs have more than one diagnosis as well, which is known as coexisting conditions. These can greatly impact each other and create the need for a more comprehensive and broad treatment plan.

Figuring out how to treat coexisting conditions can be difficult, but DBT has been proven to help many people that have these. For example, some patients will have both depression and BPD. While these are separate mental health disorders, their symptoms can impact each other, potentially making traditional therapy not effective. This is where DBT can help.

Conditions DBT Can Improve or Treat

Despite its original focus on borderline personality disorder, DBT may help treat other mental health issues, as well such as:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • ADHD
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia 4
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Self-injury that isn’t suicidal
  • Personality issues
  • Substance abuse and severe alcoholism
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 5

The Benefits of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

In dialectical behavior disorder treatment, you and your therapist will work together to reconcile the seeming conflict involving self-acceptance and change to help you make suitable changes. One of the fundamental dialectical behavior approaches is validation, which can greatly help our mental state. There are also many other benefits of DBT, which are listed below.

Change and Acceptance

With dialectical behavioral training, you will gain skills for embracing and enduring the hard truths of your life, your moods, and your identity. You will also discover techniques to help you make suitable changes in your attitude and thoughts and how you interact with others.


DBT, along with family skills training, for example, can help you figure out problems or harmful patterns of behavior and swap them with more healthy and balanced ones.


During DBT treatment, you will concentrate on modifying ineffective or harmful ideas and beliefs that happen cognitively and innately.


Here, you will learn how to enhance your communication skills and work effectively with others in a group setting. You will also acquire new skill sets that will allow you to perform at a higher level.


Dialectical behavior therapy skills training can also prompt you to acknowledge the excellent qualities and characteristics you already possess and help cultivate and use such attributes.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Treatment Targets

DBT patients often have a wide range of issues that need addressing simultaneously. To assist the therapist in selecting which problems to focus on first, DBT adopts a hierarchy of treatment goals. The following are the therapeutic goals, in order of importance.

Behaviors That Might Result in Death

The initial focus is often on behaviors that might lead to the patient’s death, such as suicidal thoughts or remarks to self-inflicted harm.

Therapy-Interfering Behaviors

This category may include various actions due to its broad applicability, such as engaging in non-cooperative behavior like being late for appointments, canceling appointments at the last minute, or not cooperating to advance toward treatments. You and your therapist will help create a plan that will help with these interfering behaviors so you can focus on healing.

Quality-of-Life Behaviors

Many things can make it hard to live an ordinary life, like having a disease, having problems in your marriage, having money problems, or having trouble finding a place to live. DBT will help you to focus on improving these qualities or learning how to cope with the issues that arise from them.

Skills Acquisition

DBT helps patients create new, more effective habits to maximize their potential. Dialectical behavior therapy for children, for example, might help them learn how to get along with other kids, their parents, teachers, and other adults.

Get Dialectical Behavioral Therapy at Essence Healthcare

If you or someone you care about may benefit from DBT, please don’t hesitate to contact us. It is critical to seek the advice of a qualified DBT specialist who can help you get back on the road to recovery. A person’s first step is often the most difficult, but the reputable Essence Healthcare team is here to guide you. We have a team of mental health experts ready to help you every step of the way.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.