Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, has become the go-to therapy for a multitude of mental health concerns, including borderline personality disorder (BPD), depression, substance dependence, PTSD, and eating disorders. Dr. Marsha Linehan, a Professor of Psychology and adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington, developed DBT.

Marsha Linehan DBT
Dr. Marsha Linehan

When she was young, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and dealt with suicidal behaviors. Dr. Linehan later believed that she was misdiagnosed, as many of her symptoms seemed to align more with BPD than with schizophrenia. Her experiences with mental illness and its treatment led to her interest in studying psychology and her eventual creation of a new therapy type – DBT.

DBT Overview

The word “dialectical” in DBT refers to the notion that two opposing ideas can be true at the same time. There is an emphasis on both accepting one’s current circumstances while also striving for change. For example, we can accept that we feel miserable in our current circumstances while striving to change them and our response to them through employing specific skills learned in DBT.

On a more practical note, DBT will usually contain two distinct components:

(1) A weekly DBT skills training group where a group leader will teach specific skills that should be practiced throughout the week.

These skills are broken down into four modules that include:

  • Mindfulness: being fully aware and present in the moment
  • Distress Tolerance: learning how to tolerate difficult situations
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: practicing how to live out appropriate boundaries with others
  • Emotional Regulation: decreasing emotional reactivity and increasing wanted emotional responses

(2) A weekly individual therapy session where a therapist can help the DBT client to apply the skills to their daily lives.

It should be noted that DBT is quite a commitment. It takes about 24 weeks to go through all the skills modules. Some people go through them more than once, depending on the severity of the issue that brought them to therapy. However, current research shows it to be an effective treatment for many mental health concerns.

DBT and Heartland Therapy Connection

At Heartland Therapy Connection, our counselors are trained in DBT principles and provide individual DBT counseling. We also partner with Brookside Counseling, who provides the DBT skills training group component for both adults and adolescents. Brookside Counseling is conveniently located across the street from Heartland Therapy Connection. Our therapists collaborate to provide a more successful DBT experience for our clients.

So if you are considering whether DBT is right for you, please reach out to us and talk with one of our therapists. We offer free 15-minute consultations to answer any questions you might have. Call us at (816) 287-0252 today and let’s discuss starting this journey together!

Picture courtesy of Washingon.edu

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