Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?
Developed by Marsha Linehan adapted by Alec Miller and Jill Rathus
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) treatment is a type of psychotherapy — or talk therapy — that utilizes a cognitive-behavioural approach. DBT emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment.
The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels.
What is unique to DBT?
The term “dialectical” comes from the idea that bringing together two opposites in therapy — acceptance and change — brings better results than either one alone.
A unique aspect of DBT is its focus on acceptance of a patient’s experience as a way for therapists to reassure them — and balance the work needed to change negative behaviours.
Standard comprehensive DBT has four parts:
- Individual therapy
- Group skills training
- Phone coaching, if needed for crises between session
- Consultation group for health care providers to stay motivated and discuss patient care
Patients agree to do homework to practice new skills. This includes filling out daily “diary cards” to track more than 40 emotions, urges, behaviours, and skills, such as lying, self-injury, or self-respect.
What’s the difference between CBT and DBT?
CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy) and DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) are two forms of psychotherapy or “talk therapy.” In both, you work with a mental health professional to learn more about the challenges you experience and learn skills to help you manage challenges on your own.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy or CBT teaches you how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours influence each other.
Dialectical behaviour therapy or DBT is based on CBT, with greater focus on emotional and social aspects. DBT was developed to help people cope with extreme or unstable emotions and harmful behaviours. DBT is an evidence-based approach to help people regulate emotions.