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Therapeutic Modalities

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that is primarily used to treat various personality and mood disorders but can also treat those experiencing destructive behavioral patterns.

“Dialectic” means that two opposite ideas can be true at the same time, and when those ideas are viewed together, they can create a new way of seeing a situation. The dialectic at the heart of DBT is acceptance and change.

In DBT, individuals are taught skills that enable them to experience their emotions without necessarily acting on them. They are also taught to replace problematic behaviors, such as self-injury or bingeing and purging, with skillful ones. DBT provides therapeutic skills in four key areas:


  • Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment
  • Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations without the situation getting worse
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
  • Emotion Regulation: how to manage and express your emotions appropriately

These skills help people focus on decreasing suffering, improving relationships, and creating a life worth living. Each individual is in charge of their own specific goals during treatment; they work with their treatment team to determine how to utilize the skills they learn in DBT to accomplish these goals.

DBT works for adolescents and adults who experience strong emotions and have symptoms such as:


  • Suicidality
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • Quickly-changing moods
  • Extreme stubbornness
  • Substance use
  • Bingeing and purging

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