What is dbt?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a well researched and comprehensive treatment approach designed to help people who have difficulty regulating their emotions. Emotion dysregulation often results in a high degree of impulsive reactivity, self-destructive behaviors, and volatile relationships. DBT works by teaching clients to become more aware of their particular sensitivity to emotions such as anger, fear, shame and sadness. At the same time, it provides the skills necessary to tolerate these emotions and then begin to regulate them. DBT also teaches assertiveness skills to enable clients to effectively ask for what they want or say no to what they don't want while preserving relationships and their own self-respect.

For a helpful summary explaining what DBT is, please view this short video created by psychologist Esme Shaller, Ph.D. and the University of California, San Francisco’s Young Adult and Family Center.

who can benefit from DBt?

Developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., ABPP, at the University of Washington in the early 1990's, DBT was originally designed as an innovative and integrative treatment for suicidal and actively self-harming patients with a history of multiple psychiatric hospitalizations who met criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Because of its success in treating this patient population, DBT has gained in popularity and has been used to treat a broader range of patients who present with many of the characteristics listed below:

  • a tendency towards impulsivity and self-destructive behaviors

  • an unstable sense of self, including chronic feelings of emptiness

  • high emotional reactivity requiring a long time to calm down

  • a tendency to see others and the world in black or white terms

  • extreme sensitivity and a tendency to lash out in anger

  • unstable relationships, especially those involving intimacy

  • a pronounced fear of being abandoned

  • rapid mood changes with mixed anxiety and depression