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Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic approach that was developed by Dr. Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s. Initially designed to treat individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), DBT has since been adapted and proven effective for a range of mental health conditions. It combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with concepts of acceptance and mindfulness.

This blog will be an on going series and source of information. I will be sharing tools and resources I have used and found the most helpful. If you find this information useful or would like more info, you can always reach out and ask us.


The choice between Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) depends on various factors, including the individual's specific needs, the nature of their concerns, and their treatment goals. As someone who has done CBT for the last 14 years, I did not know that DBT was an option for me. I had no idea what it was prior to entering an outpatient program that centered around DBT. Talk therapy wasn't enough and I wasn't making the changes that I wanted even though I was doing the work. For me the missing piece was the action and structure that DBT offered. Paired with CBT, the progress I made in four months was bigger than the 14 years of talk therapy alone.


Key Components of Dialectical Behavior Therapy:


DBT places a significant emphasis on mindfulness, teaching individuals to stay present in the moment. Mindfulness skills help individuals observe and describe their experiences without judgment, fostering a non-reactive awareness.

Distress Tolerance:

This module focuses on developing effective coping strategies for managing crises and distressing situations. Individuals learn skills to tolerate and survive painful emotions without resorting to harmful behaviors.

Emotion Regulation:

DBT assists individuals in understanding and regulating their emotions. Skills are taught to identify and label emotions, understand the functions of emotions, and change emotional responses that may be harmful.

Interpersonal Effectiveness:

This component helps individuals navigate relationships more skillfully. Interpersonal effectiveness skills teach assertiveness, setting boundaries, and maintaining self-respect while also considering the needs of others.


Central to DBT is the concept of dialectics, which involves finding a balance between opposing forces or viewpoints. It encourages individuals to accept that conflicting truths can coexist and seeks to find a synthesis.

emotion wheel

The first tool that I picked up was the emotional wheel. I did not know that I did not have the ability to describe my feelings until I sat in front of the emotional wheel. It was mind blowing to see so many words that I could use and it helped break down the yarn of feelings I had been carrying. My mind was a ball of tangled yarn and slowly I started to unravel the ball and give each piece a name.

Applications of DBT:

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD):

Originally developed for BPD, DBT is highly effective in helping individuals manage the intense emotional experiences associated with this disorder.

Substance Use Disorders:

DBT has been adapted to treat substance use disorders, helping individuals cope with cravings, manage triggers, and build a life worth living.

Eating Disorders:

For individuals with eating disorders, particularly those with emotional dysregulation, DBT skills can be beneficial in managing thoughts and emotions related to food and body image.

Depression and Anxiety:

DBT's emphasis on mindfulness and emotion regulation makes it valuable in treating depression and anxiety disorders.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy has proven effective in helping individuals build a life that feels meaningful and satisfying while developing skills to manage intense emotions. Its holistic approach, combining acceptance and change, makes it a versatile and impactful therapeutic modality.


Books by Marsha M. Linehan:

  • The Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha M. Linehan

  • DBT® Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by Marsha M. Linehan

  • DBT® Skills Training Manual by Marsha M. Linehan

  1. Online Resources:

  • Behavioral Tech ( This organization, founded by Marsha M. Linehan, offers various training resources and materials related to DBT.

  • Behavioral Tech's DBT Resources ( Provides a range of DBT resources, including articles, videos, and handouts.

  1. Therapist Directories:

  • To find a DBT-trained therapist near you, you can use therapist directories like Psychology Today ( and Ensure that the therapist is specifically trained in DBT.

  1. Mobile Apps:

  • There are several mobile apps that offer DBT skills training, including "DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach" and "DBT Coach."

radical acceptance


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