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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of treatment developed specifically to help people deal with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). DBT offers individual and group therapy as well as life skills coaching to help people learn healthier ways to deal with these conditions.

Do you:

  • have low self-esteem?
  • feel abandoned, alone, lonely?
  • engage in reckless/self-damaging behaviors?
  • have intense anger/difficulty controlling emotions?
  • have unstable, unsatisfying interpersonal relationships?

If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, you may have BPD. People with BPD experience emotions which can lead to self-injury, anger outbursts or abrupt ending of important relationships. These actions may temporarily reduce emotional pain, but they often wind up causing problems that can make life even more difficult.

Who Benefits from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

DBT was created primarily for those with a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, but anyone who displays the following could benefit:

  • Interpersonal problems
  • Emotionally sensitive
  • Impulsive
  • 'Black or white' thinking, (e.g., friend didn't call - friend hates me)
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Not always knowing what you feel or why you get upset
  • With a history of self-harming (cutting, scratching, picking scabs, disordered eating, suicide attempts, etc.) or risky behavior (for example, being sexually promiscuous after a fight with a boyfriend, not taking medications as prescribed, eating cookies when you have diabetes, etc.)

What is DBT Therapy?

DBT helps people move toward having a life that feels meaningful and worth living. DBT targets the issues that cause distress and teaches skills to deal with them without having to resort to self-defeating behaviors. It does so in a framework that helps us understand that we are doing the best we can even though we need to learn ways that work better.

How Does DBT Work?

DBT treatment involves individual therapy, skills training group and phone coaching calls in between sessions. For DBT to be successful, the participant must make a commitment to fully participate in all components of the DBT program. DBT teaches skills to help people move closer toward their life goals and cultivate an ability to work these skills into their daily lives. Participants are asked to make a commitment to participate in the DBT program for one year.

DBT Skills Group

When you sign up for this Skills Group, you make a commitment to attend the group for one year (2.5 hours per week). The Skills Group is run like a class or seminar. Participants are given binders that contain information about the skills being taught each week and are given weekly homework assignments. DBT group therapy offers participants more social support as well as the opportunity to see how others incorporate DBT skills into their lives.

Advanced DBT Group

Participants who have successfully completed one year in the DBT program may be eligible to participate in the Advanced DBT group (2 hours per week). The Advanced DBT group builds on the skills learned in the first year of DBT and helps participants use skills on a daily basis to maintain control over their emotions without engaging in self harm/ self defeating behaviors, improve their relationships and work toward reaching personal goals that will lead to a life worth living.

Individual Meetings with a DBT Therapist

DBT participants also meet individually with a DBT therapist for weekly 45-minute sessions. Therapy enhances and maintains participants' motivation to change; enhances their capabilities; ensures that their new capabilities are generalized to all relevant environments; and structures the environment so that the treatment can take place.

Medication Option

Medication may be useful to many participants in DBT. In these cases, participants see our psychiatrist who is familiar with DBT.

Is DBT Successful?

The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association consider DBT to be a first-choice treatment for BPD. Clients that receive DBT reported significantly few self-injurious behaviors and when engaging in parasuicidal behaviors had less medically severe behaviors. Also clients receiving DBT were less likely to be hospitalized and had fewer days in hospital.

As a result of DBT's success in adults with BPD, it has been adapted for adolescents struggling with severe emotional turmoil and intensely problematic ways of dealing with distress. DBT has also been modified so that it can be used with other difficulties such as eating disorders, substance abuse and anger management.