Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed in the 1960s to treat borderline personality disorder. DBT skills training, a type of cognitive-behavioral treatment, has since been adapted to help treat various mental health conditions, including anxiety, self-harm, mood disorders like depression, substance use disorder, eating disorders and the effects of PTSD. Dialectical behavior therapy can help reduce self-destructive behaviors, improve interpersonal effectiveness in relationships, regulate emotions and cope with stress.


Young lady with her hand on her mouth concept image for anxiety for DBT


What’s Unique About Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

When you enroll in this type of cognitive-behavioral treatment, you’ll attend weekly group therapy and individual therapy sessions for 6 to 12 months. DBT therapy focuses on mindfulness skills, so you can learn to live in the moment rather than dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future. With mindfulness, you pay attention to things in the environment you can experience with your five senses. For example, you can slow down the mind and body by focusing on your breath.

This approach can calm intense emotions, interrupt negative thought patterns and discourage impulsive behavior. The term dialectical in DBT refers to the inherent complexity of life and the need to learn coping skills to thrive in the face of uncertainty.

As a structured form of talk therapy, DBT is an effective treatment when guided by trained, experienced therapists. Comprehensive DBT consists of four treatment modes:

  • 1 hour a week of interpersonal therapy
  • 2.5 hours of weekly group skills training
  • 1 to 2 hours of a week of dialectical behavior therapy with your DBT consultation team
  • Additional phone coaching as needed

During these sessions, you’ll learn and practice interpersonal effectiveness skills, behavioral skills, emotion regulation skills, healthy coping skills and ways to improve distress tolerance. Understanding and working on these areas with your DBT therapists can improve your quality of life and help you meet your treatment targets. Your treatment team may even give you homework assignments so that you can practice emotional regulation strategies and other skills outside of your treatment sessions.

Benefits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Mental Health

Dialectical behavior therapy can help you learn new skills that significantly improve your quality of life. The benefits of a DBT program for mental health include:

  • Learning to manage emotions rather than reacting with problematic behaviors
  • Developing distress tolerance so you can cope with rather than try to escape from negative feelings
  • Maintaining self-respect, assertiveness and self-awareness within interpersonal relationships
  • Hearing validation of your actions is designed to break down resistance and prepare you for change
  • Learning to work as a team to solve problems
  • Changing unhelpful and unhealthy thoughts, beliefs and actions

Effectiveness of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Many studies support the efficacy of DBT treatment for various behavioral targets. A 2014 study published in Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotional Regulation found that for people with borderline personality disorder, learning DBT skills can reduce episodes of psychosis, self-injury, dissociation, depression, suicide attempts and inpatient hospitalizations.

In addition to helping with borderline personality disorder and suicidality, DBT has been proven to effectively:

  • Reduce preoccupation with food, binging and purging behavior, mood-centered eating and weight concerns among people who have eating disorders
  • Reduce depressive symptoms better than an antidepressant alone for people who have a major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder
  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety associated with childhood trauma, borderline personality disorder and other forms of emotional dysregulation
  • Reduce symptoms of inattention and improve mindfulness among people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder


Smiling young man concept image for a successful DBT patient with a positive outlook.


What Conditions Does DBT Treat?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, dialectical behavior therapy is proven effective in treating many mental health conditions, particularly issues that benefit from emotional regulation skills. Examples include:

  • Anxiety
  • Substance use disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and other forms of self-harm
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Depression
  • Bulimia, binge eating disorder and other eating disorders

Treatment progresses through four stages:

  1. Your therapists address dangerous and self-destructive behaviors.
  2. You learn skills that improve your quality of life with a mental health disorder.
  3. The third stage focuses on interpersonal relationships and healthy self-esteem.
  4. The final stage helps you learn how to make the most of your life by working toward goals, strengthening your close relationships and doing things that make you happy.

Ready for DBT? Get Help Now

To learn if this evidence-based therapy is right for you, call our mental health facility in Florida today at (866) 305-7134. Our DBT treatment team can verify your insurance coverage to see if your policy covers this type of therapy for your mental health condition.