DBT – A Powerful Tool for Getting Real Results

dialectical behaviour therapy dbt Blog

Ever wondered how Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) could benefit your clinical practice?

Imagine Sarah who has borderline personality disorder and comes to you seeking solutions to manage and calm her life. She struggles with intense mood swings, impulsivity, self-harming behaviours, unstable relationships, and chronic feelings of emptiness. She also often finds herself in conflict with others and in stressful life situations due to her volatile emotions and reactiveness.

Sarah tried cognitive behavioural therapy in the past but did not find it helpful.

Or consider Alex who has chronic depression and experiences frequent suicidal thoughts. Despite multiple attempts at therapy and medication, Alex finds it challenging to manage his depressive symptoms on a daily basis and often feels completely overwhelmed by anxiety and self-critical thoughts. He has a history of trauma and difficulty regulating emotions, which further complicates treatment.

Alex has tried therapy in the past and found it somewhat helpful, but he needs to learn new coping skills he can use on his own.

Both Sarah and Alex can benefit from a scientifically proven treatment model known as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. And it can help your clients too!

DBT can help you streamline and focus your therapeutic practice while maximizing treatment outcomes. Here’s why and what you need to know.

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?

Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., developed DBT, a cognitive-behavioural treatment, in the 1980s. It is designed to provide individuals with the skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships while teaching them to hold opposing perspectives at once and challenge rigid thinking. As the name suggests, the dialectic at the heart of DBT is acceptance and change.

DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder. Research shows that it successfully improves:

With its principle being acceptance and change, rather than focusing on efforts that can cause problems for the individual, DBT helps them learn healthier ways to cope.

Four Key Skill Sets

Specifically, DBT focuses on providing skills in four main areas simultaneously:

  1. Mindfulness practices focus on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in the current moment and circumstances.
  2. Distress tolerance is geared toward increasing a person’s ability to feel and process negative emotions, rather than trying to escape unhealthy behaviours or ignore them.
  3. Emotional regulation teaches strategies to manage, work through, and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life.
  4. Interpersonal effectiveness consists of techniques that allow a person to communicate with others in a way that is assertive and maintains self-respect, ultimately strengthening relationships without being combative.

dialectical behaviour therapy dbt

These categories of skills help individuals target staying aware and present; asserting needs effectively and saying no with self-respect; changing emotional responses; and tolerating and accepting painful situations.

The Components of DBT

Comprehensive DBT has four components that build on each other to secure the best outcomes:

  1. Skills-training groups are a vital component of DBT treatment. Weekly groups, usually 90-minutes, teach clients behavioural and coping skills. Lessons and homework assignments include concrete practice with the four key skill sets.
  2. DBT individual therapy sessions are weekly and focus on enhancing motivation and applying the skills taught in groups to specific challenges and events. Individual sessions run concurrently with the group skills training sessions.
  3. Telephone coaching is provided for in-the-moment support. The goal is to coach clients on how to effectively use their DBT skills to manage difficult situations in their everyday lives. Clients can call their individual therapist between sessions to receive coaching when they need it.
  4. The DBT consultation team is a resource for professionals who provide DBT, including individual therapists, skills-training group leaders, case managers, and others who help treat individuals. The consultation team provides support, motivation, and prevents burnout in DBT providers.

Here’s How DBT Can Benefit Your Practice

Adding Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to your mental health therapy practice can focus your efforts and maximize healing outcomes for clients for several reasons:

  1. Versatility: Using the DBT approach, you can address a client’s differing mental health needs within one framework.
  2. Evidence-Based: DBT is backed by extensive research demonstrating its effectiveness in treating complex emotional and behavioural difficulties. It is rigorously tested and proven to produce positive outcomes.
  3. Holistic Approach: DBT incorporates elements of CBT with mindfulness practices while emphasising acceptance and change addressing both the emotional and behavioural aspects of a clients’ experiences.
  4. Focus on Skills Building: DBT places a strong emphasis on teaching clients practical skills that empower them to manage their emotions, cope with stress, improve interpersonal relationships, and regulate impulsive behaviours.
  5. Validation and Support: The dialectical nature of DBT encourages therapists to balance validation and acceptance with encouraging change and growth. This approach fosters a supportive therapeutic relationship while also challenging clients to make meaningful changes in their lives.
  6. Long-Term Benefits: DBT is designed to be a long-term treatment approach, with the goal of producing lasting changes in behaviour and emotional regulation.


Become DBT-informed with our new course!

Don’t miss our six-part live webinar, Mastering Emotional Wellness: Integrating DBT Skills With Your Practice, beginning April 4, 2024, with author and therapist, Sheri Van Dijk.

  • The course will give you a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental principles of DBT and how they differ from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
  • Learn how to seamlessly integrate DBT techniques into your practice to empower clients who are dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other emotional dysregulation-related challenges.
  • This virtual workshop starts with two foundational sessions on DBT and mindfulness, then takes a deep dive into four intensive sessions covering: Core Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.
  • The training finishes strong by pulling it all together to give you the concrete skills you need to enhance your practice and guide clients toward emotional regulation and well-being.

Sign up by March 29, 2024, and save 20%!

Here’s more on DBT from Sheri Van Dijk: