An Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy that focuses on the psychosocial. It deals with people who react more intensely in certain emotional situations. The theory is that people with certain mental health problems, such as borderline personality disorder and major depression, have arousal levels that increase quicker than normal in certain emotional situations. The therapy works towards helping people learn coping skills for these sudden bursts of emotions.


Characteristics of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT focuses on teaching people to recognize thoughts or beliefs that lead to intense emotions and then helping them cope with those. Therapy sessions are support oriented. They help individuals identify their strengths and build up self-esteem and confidence. There is also a cognitive element to DBT where people learn to identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make their life more difficult. For example, someone might believe, “I’m weak for getting sad” and would learn to think instead “Being sad is normal”.

DBT often features homework and assignments such as role-playing interactions. Therapists and patients work closely together in a collaborative manner. They work together to discuss emotional interactions and practice them. Assignments are usually discussed and reviewed in group therapy sessions.


Therapy Components

There are two components of dialectical behavior therapy. People go through both individual weekly psychotherapy sessions and weekly group therapy sessions. In the individual sessions, a patient and therapist work together to discuss specific problems they have faced in the past week. During group therapy patients work together to learn boarder skills such as interpersonal skills, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and mindfulness.

Modules of DBT

There are four main modules of DBT that help individuals.

  1.    Mindfulness

Individuals learn how to be mindful of others during therapy. This helps then understand other people’s perspective and emotions instead of focusing solely on their own. People learn to be non-judgmental and open-minded. By learning to be mindful of others, people understand their behaviors and therefore learn to react appropriately.


  1.    Interpersonal Effectiveness

Learning interpersonal response patterns are an important part of DBT. People learn how to effectively ask for what they need, how to say no, and to cope with interpersonal conflict. Individuals may be asked to describe effective behavior in certain situations and asked to analyze their own behavior when they encounter a problematic situation.


  1.    Distress Tolerance

Most other forms of therapy focus on changing distressing events. DBT emphasizes increasing tolerance for distressing situations rather than avoiding or changing them. In life, people will also encounter uncomfortable or difficult situations so learning to cope with and tolerate these situations is a good tool to have. Individuals learn how to accept a current situation, even if they don’t approve or like it.


  1.    Emotional Regulation

Most people can regulate their emotions by not letting them overtake them. People with certain mental health problems can’t always do this. Their emotions are intense and unpredictable, essentially uncontrollable to themselves. DBT teaches individuals how to identify emotions and learn how to regulate them so that they don’t lose control.


Who Benefits from DBT?

DBT have been proven to be highly effective. Individuals that suffer from major depression, borderline personality disorder, and other self-destructive, emotional disorders really benefit from dialectical behavior therapy. Modifications and adaption of DBT are also effective in the treatment of addiction and eating disorders.


If you are wondering if Dialectical Behavior Therapy might benefit you, contact us to discuss this form of therapy. We are more than happy to explore whether DBT will be beneficial to you.

Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez


Existing patients, please text 561-409-7296 for follow-up appointment requests or if you have medication concerns please text 561-409-7296.