DBT Overview

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What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) developed by Marsha Linehan over thirty years ago to help people who have difficulty managing their emotions. These individuals often receive a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), BiPolar, Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Substance Abuse. The techniques used in DBT are generally intended to improve the individual’s well-being and quality of life by expanding the person’s skills, abilities, and independence. Numerous research studies have found evidence for the effectiveness of standard DBT, which is a combination of both DBT individual therapy and DBT skills training. Many clients report that individual psychotherapy alone does not facilitate the immediate changes they need in their lives. DBT offers concrete tools and techniques that help clients change their problem behaviors and build a life that they are excited about living.

What does DBT consist of?

Individual Therapy is used to formulate treatment objectives, reinforce commitment to change, explore behaviors through the use of chain analysis, integrate newly acquired skills into daily life, and validate clients progress.

Skills Training Group is used to teach new skills and explore their outcomes. DBT has divided skills training into four skills modules. The module topics are:

Core Mindfulness  – Focusing one’s attention, staying in the present moment, and accepting life as it is.

Distress Tolerance  – Managing pain skillfully, and responding in ways that do not exacerbate situations.

Emotion Regulation  – Reducing vulnerability to emotions, and decreasing reactivity to emotional situations so that you can respond more effectively.

Interpersonal Effectiveness  – Communicating your needs to others while maintaining a positive relationship and your own self-respect.


DBT helps emotion regulation difficulties such as:

  • Experiencing painful emotions that are intolerable
  • Quickly shifting between different emotions and moods
  • Feeling controlled by your emotions
  • Experiencing emotional reactivity to outside stimuli
  • Having intense self-hatred and shame
  •  Being prone to irritability and anger
  • Making impulsive choices based on your feelings.

DBT also addresses other difficulties such as:

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Intense fears of abandonment
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • A profound sense of emptiness or emotional numbness
  • Self-defeating behaviors that are impulsive or destructive
  • Inability to focus one’s attention and racing thoughts


DBT Resources – Books

DBT Skills Training Manual Handouts and Worksheets, second edition by Marsha Lineman, 2014, Guilford Press

Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha M. Linehan, 1993, New Harbinger Publications

DBT Skills Manual for Adolescents by Jill Rathus and Alec Miller, 2014, Guilford Press

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion

Regulation, & Distress Tolerance by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley, 2007, New Harbinger Publications

Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder By Paul Mason, Randi Kreger, 2010, New Harbinger Publications

Don’t Shoot the Dog — revised edition by Karen Pryor, 1999, Bantam Books.

DBT Resources – Web Links
www.behavioraltech.com – Marsha Linehan’s official website
www.dbtselfhelp.com – Some clients have found this useful