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What is dialectical behavior therapy?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a specialized form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder. It focuses on helping people develop skills to better tolerate stress and emotional discomfort. It also teaches people to become more aware of, and comfortable with, their emotions. Clinicians practicing DBT help their clients negotiate opposing forces; for example, by encouraging them to tolerate and accept difficult circumstances while also taking steps to change behaviors that might be contributing to those circumstances. This form of therapy might be especially helpful for people with addiction who also have borderline personality disorder.
Karyn Hall
Psychology
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an evidenced-based therapy developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. Evidenced-based means it was researched to determine its effectiveness. Originally the therapy was developed for individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder but has been found to be effective with other problems as well, such as eating disorders, trauma, treatment resistant depression, dual-diagnosis substance use disorders, and anxiety disorders. There are three components to DBT: Group skills training, individual therapy and coaching. A DBT therapist must be part of a team to be considered a DBT therapist. There are three stages in DBT:  Stage 1 focuses on decreasing self-harm/life threatening and therapy interfering behaviors. Stage 2 addresses inhibited emotional expression and Stage 3 is about quality of life issues. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.