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DBT Info

Welcome!! We are glad you are considering participating in our Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program.  DBT is a highly effective treatment that has helped 1000’s of people overcome suffering and build a life worth living. The following information will provide you with an overview of the model.

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a well-researched and comprehensive treatment approach designed to help people who have difficulty regulating their emotions. The research shows it reduces depression and anxiety significantly. DBT works by helping participants to become more aware of their emotional experiences. At the same time, the program teaches the skills necessary to tolerate and regulate emotions. The approach is skills based so assertiveness skills are also taught to enable participants to effectively ask for what they want from others and say no to things they don't want. There are two major goals of the treatment; one is increasing acceptance of life and all of its complexity and the other is to change negative patterns of coping. This balance of acceptance and change is an example of a dialectic which means two things that are opposite can both be true.

CLICK HERE to watch a "What is DBT" video

Who can benefit from DBT?

Studies have shown that DBT reduces:

  • Suicidal behaviors
  • Intentional self-injury
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anger
  • Eating Disorders
  • Substance Dependence
  • Impulsiveness

And Increases:

  • Adjustment in general and especially improved social functioning
  • Positive self-esteem

Developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. at the University of Washington in the early 1990's, DBT was originally designed as an innovative and integrative treatment for suicidal and actively self-harming patients with a history of multiple psychiatric hospitalizations who met criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Because of its success in treating this patient population, DBT has gained in popularity and has been used to treat a broader range clients who present with many of the characteristics listed below.

  • a tendency towards impulsivity and self-destructive behaviors including addiction
  • an unstable sense of self, including chronic feelings of emptiness
  • high emotional reactivity requiring a long time to calm down
  • a tendency to see others and the world in black and white terms
  • extremely sensitive and can lash out in anger over the slightest miscue
  • unstable relationships, especially those involving intimacy
  • a pronounced fear of being abandoned
  • rapid mood changes with mixed anxiety and depression
  • Feeling like emotions are controlling your life


How does DBT work?

DBT separates skills training from individual psychotherapy, requiring participants to attend weekly skills training groups in addition to being in ongoing and weekly DBT psychotherapy. As a unique and powerful way to further reinforce the skills taught in the skills groups, telephone coaching with a trained DBT therapist is available between group sessions. One of the key assumptions of DBT is that while we may not have caused all of our problems, we are the only ones capable and responsible for fixing them. This requires a continual willingness on the part of DBT participants to put in the hard work necessary for making the changes they want in order to create lives worth living. Because of the personal dedication, sacrifice and effort required to successfully complete our DBT program, applicants are screened during a multi-week orientation process before being eligible for admission into a DBT skills group.

What are Dialectics?

Dialectical means that opposites can coexist and be synthesized. In DBT a primary dialectic is between acceptance of a person as they are, while knowing at the same time they are working to change unwanted responses.  Dialectical thinking allows us to weigh out various points of view in any situation which enhances our ability to be more effective in our lives.

DBT is a Behavior Therapy

Behavior therapy is based on the study of how behaviors are learned. It focuses on helping people change ineffective ways of coping by learning new, skillful ways of coping. DBT focuses on specific goals that can realistically be attained and for the most part, it is a "doing" therapy rather than a talk therapy.
Skills Modules taught in DBT

  • Core Mindfulness - being present and non-judgmentally aware in the moment
  • Distress Tolerance - managing difficult feelings without acting impulsively
  • Emotion Regulation - learning to skillfully use or change emotions
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness –relating skillfully with other


DBT Assumptions

DBT assumptions about participants:

  • People in DBT are doing the best they can.
  • People in DBT want to improve.
  • People in DBT need to do better, to work harder, and be motivated to change.
  • The lives of clients are unbearable as they are currently being lived.
  • People in DBT must learn new behaviors in all areas of their lives.
  • People cannot fail DBT.


DBT assumptions about therapists:

  • All therapists, no matter how well trained, are fallible.
  • We make every reasonable effort to conduct competent and effective therapy.
  • We obey standard ethical and professional guidelines.
  • We are available for weekly therapy sessions, phone consultations, and provide needed therapy back-up.
  • We respect the integrity and rights of the client.
  • We maintain confidentiality.
  • We meet regularly for consultation and support to be effective in the work we do.


Targets of DBT treatment: (in order of priority)

  • Decreasing high-risk suicidal and self-harming behaviors
  • Decreasing therapy interfering behaviors by either therapist or patient
  • Decreasing quality of life interfering behaviors
  • Learning and mastering behavioral skills for mood-independent life choices
  • Decreasing symptoms related post-traumatic stress, other anxiety, and depression
  • Enhancing and sustaining self-respect
  • Additional goals set by patient to create a life worth living


Stages of DBT treatment:

Stage One

  • Decreasing or eliminating life-threatening behaviors (suicide attempts, suicidal thinking, self-injury, homicidal and aggressive behaviors)
  • Decreasing or eliminating therapy-interfering behaviors (missing sessions, not doing homework, behaving in a way that burns others out)
  • Reducing or eliminating hospitalization as a way of handling crisis
  • Decreasing behaviors that interfere with the quality of life (eating disorders, not going to work or school, addiction, chronic unemployment)
  • Increasing behaviors that will enable the person to have a life worth living
  • Increasing behavioral skills that help to build relationships, manage emotions and deal effectively with various life problems


Stage Two

  • Continuing and building on Stage One skills
  • Targeting and decreasing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other Anxiety or Depression related symptoms


Stage Three

  • Increasing love and respect for self and others
  • Affirming individual life goals
  • Solving ordinary life problems


Stage Four

  • Developing the capacity for freedom and joy
  • Living a life worth living!