What Is DBT?

What Is DBT?

Developed by psychologist Dr. Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has since become an integral part of psychotherapy, particularly for individuals grappling with emotional dysregulation, self-harm behaviors, and borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, its efficacy extends beyond these specific conditions, offering a roadmap to emotional balance and interpersonal effectiveness for a broader range of individuals.

Understanding DBT

At its core, DBT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that incorporates elements of mindfulness and acceptance-based techniques. The term “dialectical” refers to the integration of seemingly opposing concepts, such as acceptance and change, to foster personal growth. DBT operates on the premise that individuals struggling with intense emotions often lack the skills necessary to regulate them effectively. Therefore, the primary goal of DBT is to equip individuals with coping strategies and interpersonal skills to navigate life’s challenges more adeptly.

The Four Modules of DBT

DBT typically consists of four modules, each targeting a specific area of skill development:

  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness forms the foundation of DBT, emphasizing present-moment awareness without judgment. Through mindfulness practices, individuals learn to observe their thoughts, emotions, and sensations without reacting impulsively, fostering greater self-awareness and emotional regulation.
  • Distress Tolerance: This module focuses on coping strategies for managing crises and distressing situations without resorting to harmful behaviors. Techniques such as distraction, self-soothing, and improving the moment help individuals navigate intense emotions.
  • Emotion Regulation: Emotion regulation skills empower individuals to identify, understand, and modulate their emotions effectively. By learning to tolerate distress, reduce emotional vulnerability, and increase positive emotions, individuals can navigate life’s ups and downs with greater resilience.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: Effective communication and interpersonal skills are essential for building and maintaining healthy relationships. This module teaches individuals assertiveness, boundary-setting, and negotiation skills to navigate interpersonal conflicts and cultivate fulfilling connections.

Who Does DBT Help?

DBT has demonstrated efficacy in treating a range of mental health concerns, including:

  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): DBT is considered the gold standard treatment for BPD, helping individuals manage intense emotions, reduce self-destructive behaviors, and improve relationships.
  • Depression: DBT can be effective in treating depression, particularly when it stems from difficulties regulating emotions or managing stress.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Individuals with anxiety disorders can benefit from DBT’s emphasis on mindfulness and distress tolerance, enabling them to cope with anxious thoughts and sensations more effectively.
  • Substance Use Disorders: DBT skills can complement substance abuse treatment by helping individuals cope with cravings, manage triggers, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Eating Disorders: DBT’s focus on emotion regulation and distress tolerance can be beneficial for individuals struggling with eating disorders, helping them manage the underlying emotional distress driving disordered eating behaviors.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): DBT’s emphasis on mindfulness and coping skills can aid individuals in managing the distressing symptoms of PTSD and fostering post-traumatic growth.


While DBT is effective in treating these disorders, it can also help improve outcomes for individuals with mild anxiety, and provides valuable tools to anyone looking to improve their resiliency and interpersonal relationship skills.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers a holistic approach to healing, emphasizing the integration of acceptance and change to promote emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. By equipping individuals with practical skills and strategies, DBT empowers them to navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience and emotional balance. 

To receive DBT in its entirety, it’s important to receive the therapy at a DBT-Center. However, many therapists that work on a variety of issues often incorporate DBT methods into their work to enhance outcomes for clients.  

If you’d like to explore working with a therapist, contact us at (734) 323-4897 or info@galvingrowthgroup.com for more information. Our practice, based in Novi, Michigan, is home to a team of psychologists with a wide range of expertise. We also offer teletherapy and can see anyone in the state of Michigan.



Cleveland Clinic, Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Psychology Today, Dialectical Behavior Therapy