In our recent episode with Dr. Jenny Taitz we talked a lot about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), but what exactly does this form of counseling entail? DBT was developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan. The goal of the treatment was to treat patients with suicidal tendencies by helping them to create a “life worth living” (Linehan & Wilks, 2015). Today, DBT is recommended for several populations (however it is often used for additional groups) including individuals with borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, substance use disorder, and/or individuals contemplating suicide (Chapman, 2006; Dimeff & Linehan, n.d.). Let’s dive into the details of how this treatment works!
DBT attempts to accomplish 4 different functions:
- Improving Internal Skills: This includes working on important skills such as regulating one’s emotions, maintaining presence in the moment, and navigating life stressors.
- Transferring Skills to Real Life: This involves working through real life scenarios in therapy sessions to demonstrate ways DBT skills can be applied in daily life.
- Reshaping Behavior to Improve Motivation: DBT therapists work to reshape negative behaviors into positive alternatives.
- Creating A Healthy Environment: This refers to helping a client to change their environments in order to promote a healthy and adaptive lifestyle.
Like cognitive-behavioral therapy, DBT works to curb maladaptive behaviors. Unlike cognitive-behavioral therapy, DBT focuses on building skills in emotional regulation, rather than reshaping cognitions (Webb et al., 2016). DBT can be a powerful tool in a therapist’s arsenal and is often viewed as one of the more empirically researched forms of psychotherapy.