DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)

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Studies have demonstrated that DBT can effectively reduce the frequency and severity of suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviors.

DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) is an adaptation of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) infused with mindfulness practices. DBT therapy empowers people to embrace the present moment, cultivate healthy coping strategies for stress, regulate their emotions, and foster meaningful relationships with others.

Developed to address BPD (borderline personality disorder), dialectical behavior therapy DBT is now indicated to treat various mental health conditions, offering hope for those struggling with emotional turmoil and self-destructive behaviors. Beyond this, DBT is one of the most effective therapies for the treatment of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

This guide explores the following issues:

  • What is DBT therapy?
  • What does DBT stand for?
  • Are DBT skills effective?
  • CBT vs DBT: what’s the difference?
  • How to use a DBT workbook and DBT worksheets.
  • Is DBT group therapy a compulsory component?
  • What is DBT radical acceptance?
person getting therapy representing treatment for boderline personality disorder

What is DBT?

DBT is a fusion of cognitive-behavioral techniques and mindfulness practices. Created by Marsha Linehan to address the complexities of borderline personality disorder (BPD), DBT has evolved beyond its initial scope and is now widely applied to assist individuals facing various emotional challenges and self-destructive behaviors. From eating disorders and anxiety disorders through to PTSD and BPD, DBT has proven its versatility and capacity to facilitate profound transformation. By teaching individuals to focus on the present moment, regulate emotions, and develop healthy coping mechanisms, DBT offers a holistic and empowering path to emotional freedom.

person getting therapy representing treatment for boderline personality disorder
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How Can DBT Help?

The core objectives of DBT aim to be transformative. Through DBT, individuals learn to embrace the present moment and develop a heightened sense of mindfulness. By tuning into their thoughts, feelings, and sensations with nonjudgmental awareness, they uncover insights into their internal states. This newfound self-awareness becomes the cornerstone for developing healthy coping strategies during times of emotional distress.

DBT equips individuals with crucial distress tolerance skills, enabling them to accept themselves and their circumstances. By mastering techniques such as distraction, self-soothing, and evaluating pros and cons, they become better equipped to navigate crises and overcome emotional challenges.

Beyond this, interpersonal effectiveness is a crucial aspect of DBT, as it empowers people to build and maintain positive relationships while staying true to their own needs and boundaries. With enhanced communication skills and the ability to deal with difficult people, they forge healthier connections with others, fostering a deeper sense of fulfillment and support in their lives.

DBT Techniques

DBT has a repertoire of powerful and versatile techniques designed to empower people in their journey toward emotional freedom. These techniques, carefully crafted to address a wide range of emotional challenges, are at the heart of DBT’s effectiveness
Core mindfulness

At the foundation of DBT lies the practice of core mindfulness. This technique encourages people to cultivate a heightened sense of awareness and presence in the moment. By observing their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses without judgment, it is possible to develop a deeper understanding of inner experiences. Core mindfulness provides a powerful tool to navigate emotional distress skillfully, helping people stay grounded in the present and break free from automatic, negative thought patterns.

Distress tolerance

Life is filled with challenges, and distress tolerance techniques equip people with the skills to weather the storms with resilience. DBT imparts various strategies to cope with distressing situations without succumbing to impulsive or self-destructive behaviors. Techniques like distraction, improving the moment, self-soothing, and evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of not tolerating distress empower people to face difficulties head-on and emerge stronger on the other side through DBT distress tolerance skills.

Interpersonal effectiveness

Building and maintaining healthy relationships is a central component of emotional well-being. Interpersonal effectiveness techniques in DBT offer valuable guidance on effective communication, setting boundaries, and assertiveness. People learn to express their needs and desires confidently while respecting the needs of others. This skillful approach to relationships fosters a sense of connection, support, and emotional fulfillment.

Emotion regulation

Emotions are a natural part of the human experience but managing them can be challenging. DBT emotion regulation techniques help people identify, name, and navigate intense emotions in a healthy and constructive manner. By understanding the functions of emotions and recognizing their impact, it is possible to gain greater control over emotional experiences. People can learn to reduce emotional vulnerability and cultivate positive emotional experiences, leading to improved mood and well-being.

Opposite action

This powerful technique encourages people to challenge their emotional responses and act in ways that oppose their initial impulses. For instance, if someone is feeling sad and has the urge to withdraw from social interactions, opposite action encourages them to reach out to loved ones instead. By deliberately engaging in actions contrary to their emotional urges, individuals disrupt the cycle of negative emotions and create space for more positive experiences.

Mindfulness of current thoughts

In this technique, individuals are encouraged to examine and challenge their negative or irrational thoughts. By cultivating mindfulness of their thought patterns, they learn to identify cognitive distortions and replace them with more balanced and constructive thoughts. This cognitive restructuring process empowers people to shift their perspective and develop healthier thought patterns, leading to improved emotional well-being.


This technique is especially useful in distressing situations. ABC stands for Accumulate Positive emotions, Build Mastery, and Cope ahead. PLEASE stands for treating Physical illness, balancing eating, avoiding mood-altering substances, getting enough sleep, and engaging in exercise. By incorporating these skills, individuals can effectively cope with stress and emotional challenges, maintaining emotional balance and well-being.

DBT techniques are not universally effective. Instead, they are adaptable and personalized to meet the unique needs of each individual. With the guidance of a skilled DBT therapist and the use of DBT therapy worksheets, individuals can harness the power of these techniques to overcome emotional obstacles, build resilience, and transform their lives for the better. The versatility and evidence-based nature of DBT techniques make it a truly transformative therapeutic approach that continues to empower countless individuals on their journey to emotional freedom.
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Benefits of DBT

These are the key benefits of DBT:
Emotion regulation

One of the core benefits of DBT is its focus on teaching individuals how to regulate their emotions effectively. Many people struggle with intense and overwhelming emotions, which can lead to impulsive and harmful behaviors. DBT equips individuals with practical skills to identify, understand, and manage their emotions in healthier ways. By developing emotional regulation skills, individuals experience a greater sense of control and stability in their lives.

Coping with distress

Life is full of stressors and adversities, and DBT excels in teaching people how to cope with distressing situations. The distress tolerance techniques in DBT empower individuals to navigate difficult moments without resorting to self-destructive behaviors or becoming overwhelmed. These skills provide a vital safety net, helping people to ride out emotional storms with resilience and grace.

Improved interpersonal relationships:

Healthy relationships are integral to well-being, but they can also be a significant source of stress. DBT’s emphasis on interpersonal effectiveness equips people with valuable tools for navigating relationships with greater confidence and skill. By learning effective communication, setting boundaries, and respecting themselves and others, individuals experience more fulfilling and harmonious connections with loved ones.

Reduction in self-destructive behaviors

For people struggling with self-destructive behaviors like self-harm or eating disorders, DBT can be a lifeline. DBT targets these harmful behaviors directly and helps individuals develop alternative coping strategies. DBT can significantly reduce self-destructive behaviors and decrease the risk of suicide in those with BPD and other conditions.

Enhanced mindfulness

DBT places a strong emphasis on cultivating mindfulness skills, which involves being fully present in the moment and nonjudgmentally observing your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness allows people to break free from ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, leading to reduced stress and anxiety. With regular practice, mindfulness becomes a powerful tool for enhancing overall well-being and promoting mental clarity.

Adaptability to various conditions

Originally designed to treat borderline personality disorder, DBT has demonstrated its versatility in helping individuals with a wide range of mental health conditions. Whether it’s depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, or eating disorders, DBT’s evidence-based techniques can be adapted to address specific challenges effectively.

Long-term positive outcomes

DBT is known for producing lasting and sustainable results. Unlike some therapies that may offer short-term relief but fail to address underlying issues, DBT provides individuals with essential life skills that continue to serve them well beyond the course of therapy. The skills learned in DBT can be applied to various life situations, promoting long-term emotional well-being and improved quality of life.

Personal growth and empowerment

Through DBT, individuals not only learn to manage their emotions and behaviors but also gain a sense of empowerment and autonomy. DBT emphasizes the importance of self-acceptance and change, allowing people to embrace their unique qualities while working towards positive personal growth. This process of self-discovery and growth should improve self-esteem and self-confidence.

Effectiveness across diverse populations

DBT has demonstrated its effectiveness across diverse populations, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or cultural background. Its inclusive nature and adaptability make it an accessible and valuable therapeutic option for individuals from all walks of life.

Get DBT Therapy for Mental Health Disorders at Connections

DBT is one of the cornerstone treatments at Connections Mental Health in Southern California. All treatment programs at our serene and supportive center are individualized to suit the unique needs of each person looking for a stable base from which to kickstart their recovery.

We have a committed team of expert staff who deliver cutting-edge and evidence-based treatments rooted in the most current psychiatric science. With at least two staff members present at all times and continuous emotional supervision, we are here to help you experience profound healing while building enduring connections.

Rather than treating the symptoms of a mental health disorder, our approach is to treat the whole person by blending science-backed and holistic interventions.

When you or a loved one are ready to engage with treatment for mental health issues in Southern California, call Connections at (844) 413-0009.

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