What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy is a form of talking therapy that is meant to help people with mental issues. The treatment is based on CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of therapy helps patients to understand and accept difficult feelings and thoughts. It also encourages patients to learn skills that will help to manage strong emotions in the future. This way, the patient will be able to make positive changes to their lives. 

What is the Difference between Dialectical Behavior Therapy and CBT?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on how your thoughts, behavior, and emotions influence each other. The point of this treatment is to help the patient change distractive ways of thinking and behaving. DBT does this as well, but it focuses more on accepting who you are and learning new skills that will help you manage your emotions. It is also worth noting that DBT involves more group work, and the therapist will encourage the patients to push themselves towards changing their lives. 

Which Conditions Does DBT Treat?

Dialectical behavioral therapy was initially developed as a treatment for patients with suicidal tendencies or borderline personality disorder. Over time, it has been adapted for patients with other mental health disorders that threaten their safety or emotional wellbeing. A typical patient of DBT will show symptoms such as sudden emotional outbursts, extreme anger and aggression, and depression. Since the treatment was originally used for people with suicidal thoughts and borderline personality disorder, most evidence on its effectiveness focuses on these two conditions. However, reports have indicated that it is also effective in treating drug and alcohol problems, as well as eating disorders. 

This form of therapy works best for patients who are ready to work hard at therapy and even engage in extra assignments. As noted earlier, it involves a lot of group work, so you also have to be ready to engage in social sessions. If you are committed to the treatment but would not feel comfortable working in groups, you can consult your therapist to find out how they can help. Many people get nervous about group therapy sessions, but they develop more confidence as they experience more support in the group. You should also note that DBT encourages patients to focus on their present and future instead of the past. 

Acceptance Skills With DBT

One core aspect of DBT is accepting reality. Typically, patients who seek this form of treatment engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self-harming, which will only reduce emotional pain in the short term. With DBT, the patients are encouraged to stop fighting their thoughts and emotions and instead accept reality. By accepting their past and present, the patient will be able to break the cycle of suffering, shame, and other negative emotions. The therapist will also train the patients to develop systems of catching themselves in the future when they drift from acceptance. There are many skills that a therapist can use to help you accept reality. For example, you can remind yourself that the unpleasant experiences cannot be changed and list any behaviors that would be unacceptable coping mechanisms. 

Is DBT Effective in Treating Mental Disorders?

DBT has been used for a long time and has been noted to be highly effective. In one study, researchers discovered that 75% of BPD (borderline personality disorder) patients no longer met the diagnostic criteria for the condition after one year of treatment. In addition, patients with suicidal tendencies experience better results if they combine DBT with skills training. More limited studies have shown that the therapy offers excellent results in patients with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Many children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder have also been treated successfully with DBT. However, since the treatment has mostly been used to treat BPD and suicidal patients, studies on other conditions are still not conclusive. 


Dialectical behavioral therapy is a treatment therapy that was traditionally used to treat people with borderline personality disorder and suicidal tendencies. However, this form of talking therapy is now used to treat a broader range of mental disorders and has proven to be very effective.