Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills Training

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of combined cognitive-behavioral therapies that are designed to help clients modulate behaviors and regulate emotion.  Originally developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for to help with Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT has more recently been used by clinicians to help with eating disorders, substance abuse issues, and in other out-patient settings. 

The main tenets of DBT are to validate the individual’s experience while also working to effect change when that is possible (and to work on accepting when that is not possible).  To help effect change, DBT uses a number of skills that help people make effective choices.  Specifically, DBT targets behaviors that contribute to emotional pain and interpersonal difficulties and teaches skills to manage these problems without resorting to self-defeating behaviors.

Skills training encompass four areas:

  • Distress Tolerance – Skills to help you tolerate difficult, distressing events.  This is not about making distress disappear, but how can you make it feel more manageable.
  • Emotional Regulation – Skills to help reduce your vulnerability to feeling emotionally out-of-control.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness – Skills to help effectively communicate your wants/needs with others while maintaining your boundaries and your personal goals.
  • Mindfulness – Skills to help keep you in the present moment in a non-judgmental manner, so you can use skills and make balanced decisions.

Individual DBT skills training will focus on teaching clients skills from these areas and how they can apply them in their own lives to help decrease distress and increase happiness.  This is often effective for clients who have had difficulty with or have had little success with other forms of treatment.  This is best done in conjunction with outside individual treatment, although can be a stand-alone treatment.