top of page

Understanding Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a powerful and evidence-based psychotherapeutic approach initially developed to treat borderline personality disorder. However, its effectiveness has extended to a wide range of mental health issues, making it a valuable tool in clinical settings. This blog post delves into the workings of DBT, its core principles, and its transformative impact on individuals struggling with emotional regulation, stress, and interpersonal difficulties.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

DBT, conceptualized by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s, is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment. The term "dialectical" refers to the process of synthesizing opposite concepts—acceptance and change. DBT teaches patients to balance acceptance of their experiences with efforts to change their behaviors and emotions (Linehan, 1993).

Core Components of DBT:

  1. Mindfulness: The foundation of DBT, mindfulness, involves being fully aware and present in the moment. This skill helps individuals recognize and cope with their emotions effectively (Robins, Schmidt, & Linehan, 2004).

  2. Distress Tolerance: Distress tolerance skills are geared towards enhancing an individual's ability to tolerate and survive crises without resorting to self-destructive behaviors (Tait, & Michonski, 2020).

  3. Emotion Regulation: DBT provides strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life (Neacsiu, Rizvi, & Linehan, 2010).

  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: These skills focus on improving relationships and assertiveness, enabling individuals to communicate more effectively and respectfully (Rathus & Miller, 2002).

How Does DBT Work?

DBT combines individual psychotherapy with group skills training classes to provide a comprehensive treatment experience. During individual therapy sessions, therapists and clients work towards improving problem behaviors and achieving therapeutic goals. Group sessions, on the other hand, are focused on teaching and practicing DBT skills (Linehan, 1993).

The Effectiveness of DBT:

Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of DBT in treating a range of mental health disorders. A meta-analysis by Kliem, Kröger, and Kosfelder (2010) found DBT to be effective in reducing symptoms of borderline personality disorder, including self-harm and suicidal behaviors. Additionally, DBT has shown promising results in treating mood disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse (Linehan et al., 2006; Safer, Telch, & Agras, 2001).

DBT in Practice:

DBT's real-world application extends beyond clinical settings. It is increasingly used in schools, correctional facilities, and community programs to teach coping skills and improve emotional regulation (Dimeff & Koerner, 2007).


Dialectical Behavior Therapy stands as a testament to the progress in psychotherapeutic treatments. Its emphasis on balancing acceptance and change, coupled with its structured approach, makes it a powerful tool in addressing a wide array of psychological issues. As research continues to evolve, DBT's applicability and effectiveness in diverse populations and settings are likely to expand, offering hope and healing to many.


  1. Linehan, M. M.

(1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. Guilford Press. 2. Robins, C. J., Schmidt, H., & Linehan, M. M. (2004). Dialectical behavior therapy: Synthesizing radical acceptance with skillful means. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive-behavioral tradition (pp. 30-44). Guilford Press.

  1. Tait, L., & Michonski, J. (2020). Distress tolerance treatment for adolescents: A promising approach for emotion regulation and the prevention of psychopathology. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 33(1), 35-43.

  2. Neacsiu, A. D., Rizvi, S. L., & Linehan, M. M. (2010). Dialectical behavior therapy skills use as a mediator and outcome of treatment for borderline personality disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48(9), 832-839.

  3. Rathus, J. H., & Miller, A. L. (2002). Dialectical behavior therapy adapted for suicidal adolescents. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 32(2), 146-157.

  4. Kliem, S., Kröger, C., & Kosfelder, J. (2010). Dialectical behavior therapy for borderline personality disorder: A meta-analysis using mixed-effects modeling. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(6), 936-951.

  5. Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., Murray, A. M., Brown, M. Z., Gallop, R. J., Heard, H. L., ... & Lindenboim, N. (2006). Two-year randomized controlled trial and follow-up of dialectical behavior therapy vs therapy by experts for suicidal behaviors and borderline personality disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63(7), 757-766.

  6. Safer, D. L., Telch, C. F., & Agras, W. S. (2001). Dialectical behavior therapy for bulimia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(4), 632-634.

0 views0 comments
bottom of page