What is DBT?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy was originally created for high-risk, multiple-diagnosis clients with pervasive, severe emotion dysregulation and it is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population. In addition, research has shown that it is effective in treating a wide range of other disorders such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

What are the components of DBT?

In its original form, there are four parts of DBT: Skills training group, individual treatment, DBT phone coaching and consultation team.

  1. DBT skills training group is focused on enhancing client’s capabilities to teaching them behavioural skills. The group is run like a class where the group leader teaches the skills and assigns homework for clients to practice using the skills in their everyday lives.
  2. DBT individual therapy is focused on enhancing client motivation and helping clients to apply the skills to specific challenges and events in their lives. In the standard DBT model, individual therapy takes place once a week for as long as the client is in therapy and runs concurrently with skills group
  3. DBT phone coaching is focused on providing clients with in-the-moment coaching on how to use skills to effectively cope with difficult situations that arise in their everyday lives. Clients can call their individual therapist between sessions to receive coaching at the times when they need help the most.
  4. DBT therapist consultation team is intended to be therapy for the therapist and to support DBT providers in their work with people. The consultation team is designed to help therapists stay motivated and competent so they can provide the best treatment possible.

What skills are taught in DBT?

DBT includes four sets of behavioural skills

  1. Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment
  2. Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it
  3. Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
  4. Emotion Regulation: how to change emotions that you want to change

What does dialectical mean?

The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic with DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example, DBT therapists accept clients as they are while also acknowledging that they need to change in order to reach their goals. In addition, all of the skills and strategies taught in DBT are balanced in terms of acceptance and change.