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Dialectical Behavioural Therapy

What kind of therapy is it?

DBT is part of the “third wave” of cognitive behavioural therapies - those that focus less on the content of your thoughts and feelings than on how you respond to them, and that often incorporate mindfulness.

What problems can it help with?

DBT was developed for people with emotionally unstable personality disorder (this involves feeling emotions very intensely) but is increasingly used for other problems such eating disorders and drug and alcohol misuse. DBT can be very helpful for dealing with suicidality and self-harming.

How does it work?

DBT is “dialectical” because it asks you both to accept yourself and to make positive changes, and to find a balance between these processes. DBT uses mindfulness training for acceptance of thoughts and feelings, distress tolerance skills for tolerating painful feelings rather than trying to escape from them, emotion regulation for managing and changing intense emotions, and interpersonal effectiveness skills to improve communication and relationships.  

What will a typical session be like?

DBT has a focus on learning skills that will help you to cope better. That is combined with developing an understanding of where your problems came from, and providing a therapeutic relationship in which you can feel safe and in which your therapist can offer support and encouragement. You will be asked to practise new skills in between sessions. 

What is the evidence?

There is evidence that DBT is effective for emotionally unstable personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Further reading:
Behavioral Tech
Psychology Today
Amazon: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook


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