Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). It’s based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),which is a type of talk therapy that helps people understand how thoughts affect emotions and behaviors., but it’s specially adapted for people who experience emotions very intensely.  “Dialectical” means combining opposite ideas. DBT focuses on helping people accept the reality of their lives and their behaviors, as well as helping them learn to change their lives, including their unhelpful behaviors. Dialectical behavior therapy was developed in the 1970s by Marsha Linehan, an American psychologist.

What is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) used for?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is especially effective for people who have difficulty managing and regulating their emotions.  DBT has proven to be effective for treating and managing a wide range of mental health conditions, including:

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
Suicidal behavior
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Substance use disorder
Eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder and bulimia.

It’s important to note that the reason DBT has proven effective for treating these conditions is that each of these conditions is thought to be associated with issues that result from unhealthy or problematic efforts to control intense, negative emotions. Rather than depending on efforts that cause problems for the person, DBT helps people learn healthier ways to cope.

How does DBT work?
The main goal of therapists who use dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is to strike a balance between validation (acceptance) of who you are and your challenges and the benefits of change. Your therapist will help you learn new skills to improve emotion regulation. The structure of dialectical behavior therapy can vary some from therapist to therapist, but, in general, DBT involves these four types of sessions:

DBT pre-assessment.
Individual therapy.
Skills training in groups.
Telephone crisis coaching.

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