What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a treatment designed specifically for individuals with self-harm behaviors, such as self-cutting, suicide thoughts, urges to suicide and suicide attempts. Many clients with this behavior meet criteria for a disorder called borderline personality (BPD). It is not unusual for individuals diagnosed with BPD to also struggle with other problems — depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, eating disorders or alcohol and drug problems. DBT is a modification of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).

DBT, and mindfulness in general, work to help people stay in the moment because leaving your present can have unforeseen consequences on your ability to make wise choices and operate effectively. The intersection of this perspective with the research presented in this article seems to be around the connectedness we feel with ourselves and others.

The most important of the overall goals in DBT is helping clients create “Lives worth Living”. For some individuals, a life worth living is getting married and having kids. For others, it’s finishing school and finding a life partner. Others might find it’s finding a spiritual group. While all these goals will differ, all individuals have in common the task of bringing problem behaviors, especially behaviors that could result in death, under control. For this reason, DBT organizes treatment into four stages with targets. Targets refer to the problems being addressed at any given time in therapy. Here are the four stages with targeted behaviors in DBT: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness.