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Dialectical Behavior Therapy – What Is It

Dialectical Behavior Therapy – What Is It

If you want to build skills like mindfulness and emotional regulation in therapy, DBT could be a good option for you. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an effective, science-backed therapy that helps people, many of whom experience significant mental health challenges — build a life they find worthwhile.

In dialectical behavior therapy, you identify what this kind of life looks like for you and learn the skills to make it happen. While DBT can help regardless of whether you have a mental health diagnosis, it’s often used to support people who experience:

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Suicidal ideation and self-harm

If you’re feeling like mental health symptoms are negatively impacting your quality of life, health, or relationships, DBT might be a good choice for you.

What’s the theory behind DBT?

Psychologist Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., developed dialectical behavior therapy in the 1980s for people with suicidal thoughts who also often lived with BPD.

BPD is a mental health condition that involves:

  • an unstable sense of self
  • intense emotions
  • impulsive actions
  • relationship difficulties
  • black and white thinking

The first word in DBT, “dialectical,” captures the treatment’s foundation. Dialectic philosophy features these core beliefs:

  • All things are interconnected.
  • Change is constant and inevitable.
  • Opposites can be integrated to get closer to the truth.

In other words, two seemingly opposite things can actually be true at the same time. For example, it’s important to accept where you are and strive to grow. It’s important to recognize that you’re doing your best and keep trying.

At its root, DBT takes a biosocial approach to understand how people’s symptoms arise and continue.