The Development of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Posted in: Treatment

May 19, 2014

A woman with her hand on her head talking with another woman

Several therapy options are available for people that need treatment for mental health conditions. Some common types of therapy include psychoanalytic, cognitive behavioral and expressive treatment, but another kind is called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This therapy was thought up in the 1980s, and has since been used by numerous mental healthcare professionals to help people suffering from various psychological issues. DBT is an excellent therapy option for many people, as it can help them understand themselves and their thought processes to regain control of their lives.

Dialectical behavior therapy was created by Marsha Linehan. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains, Linehan developed DBT out of traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, and she then used this therapy to treat people that were chronically suicidal, self-destructive and that had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT focuses on validation: in each therapy session, a therapist works with her patient to learn how to stop struggling with uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and then how to accept those problems instead. One of the goals of DBT is for the patient to develop coping skills, which she can then use to manage the symptoms of her mental health condition.

Main Components of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Psych Central identifies the following four components of DBT that have developed over the years:

  • Mindfulness: A person going through DBT will learn to be mindful by observing, describing and participating in events without judgment
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: This skill helps patients learn how to communicate effectively with other people. Specifically, it teaches them how to say no, ask for what they need and how to handle conflict responsibly.
  • Distress tolerance: One of the primary focuses of DBT is helping patients learn how to deal with distress by accepting themselves and problems. It also teaches four strategies for managing distress: analyzing pros and cons, distracting, improving the moment and self-soothing.
  • Emotional regulation: Since people struggling with BPD often have intense and unpredictable emotions, DBT trains them how to identify, become mindful of and change negative emotions.

In other words, DBT will help people overcome problems through accepting rather than trying to control them.

Eboni Webb shares information about dialectical Behavioral Therapy with Recovery Unscripted.

In this episode of Recovery Unscripted, Dr. Eboni Webb, psychologist and DBT educator, shares the role that mindfulness plays in overall mental health and how therapists can help make DBT more accessible to everyone. Webb is an internationally renowned trainer in Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

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Opening the Door to DBT


Episode #48 | January 16, 2018Listen Now

Benefits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

NAMI also lists the following benefits of DBT:

  • Decrease the frequency and intensity of self-injurious behaviors: This is one of the primary reasons that DBT can be useful for other mental health conditions, especially depression
  • Use positive reinforcement to increase someone’s motivation for change: A major component of this therapy is helping people feel better about themselves and boosting their self-esteem. It also increases self-esteem, which can, in turn, improve someone’s ability to recover.
  • Teach coping skills: Since many problems related to BPD stem from someone’s difficulty in handling stress, DBT focuses on safe and healthy forms of stress management

Seek professional help to address mental health problems.

Learn More About Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Many people struggle with BPD, depression or other mental health issues. For some of these people, it may feel like no one understands them, and like help does not exist. However, the truth is that treatment options are available for these conditions. One common option is dialectical behavior therapy, a type of treatment that trains patients to understand their symptoms and to manage them in safe and productive ways.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with BPD or a similar condition, then please know that help is available. DBT is an effective form of therapy for many people, and can help those with BPD to live healthy, productive lives. Call us today at 615-490-9376 to learn more about how DBT can help you.

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