What is DBT?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a type of therapy that is effective in helping people with emotional regulation. Dialectical behavior therapy is an offshoot of cognitive behavior therapy, a well-known therapy often used to treat anxiety and depression, as well as a variety of other conditions. DBT is based on the concept of dialectics, as well as on principles of behavioral theory.
A “dialectic” is two seemingly opposite concepts that can both be seen as true. One central dialectic in DBT is that of acceptance and change. We teach people to accept the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that they experience and at the same time, work towards improvement in a healthy way. Another central dialectic is that of emotion and rationality. We teach people to recognize and experience their emotions and at the same time, recognize and react effectively in line with their goals.
DBT uses four sets of skills to help individuals act effectively when faced with overwhelming emotions:
This is the foundational set of skills that underlies the other three. The objective of mindfulness is awareness. Individuals with emotion dysregulation are taught to pay close attention to internal signals and experiences as well as external ones.
This ability to shift attention toward – and away from – various stimuli provides building blocks for recognizing and appropriately adjusting emotions, thoughts, and behavior.