Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Benefits and What to Expect

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology. DBT is a type of therapy that’s often used to reduce symptoms of BPD, but it has some other uses as well.

  • Perhaps more importantly, the study demonstrated that utilization of high-cost inpatient services decreased by 50% and length of stay by 69%.
  • In individual sessions, patients review difficult situations and feelings they faced the prior week and engage in problem-solving by actively discussing ways of behaving that might have delivered a positive outcome.
  • In the 1980s, psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan noticed that CBT was not working well with patients who experienced suicidal behaviors, self-harm tendencies, or had borderline personality disorder.

In summary, the patients for whom DBT has the strongest and most consistent empirical support include parasuicidal women with BPD. There also are some promising data on DBT for women with BPD who struggle with substance use problems. Preliminary data suggest that DBT may have promise in reducing binge-eating and other eating-disordered behaviors. On the one hand, the most conservative clinical choice would be to limit DBT to women with BPD. On the other hand, DBT is a comprehensive treatment that includes elements of several evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral interventions for other clinical problems.

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Also, not all insurance plans cover comprehensive DBT treatment with skills training groups. If you use self-injury as a way to cope with overwhelming and painful emotions, DBT can teach you safer and more effective self-soothing strategies, says Danielle McGraw, a licensed clinical psychologist and owner of Flourish Mental Wellness. In deciding whether to use DBT or other treatments for a particular patient, one key deciding factor is the research data on the treatment with patients that are similar in terms of problem areas, diagnoses, or characteristics to the patient in question. It’s crucial to consider personalized treatment plans and explore alternative therapeutic approaches for those who may not respond optimally to DBT.

By teaching behavioral skills for dealing with that pain, DBT can help reduce suicidal thoughts and urges. One study found reduced feelings of shame, anxiety, and trauma-related guilt for individuals with PTSD after DBT (Harned et al., 2014). Each phase builds on the last, guiding the client from crisis stabilization to enhanced life meaning and satisfaction. The progression equips clients with layered skills for safety, emotional control, self-efficacy, and social fluency so they can pursue life goals.

Borderline personality disorder

We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions. This web-based tool is designed to help patients who are in therapy with a trained DBT professional. There are a few helpful ways you can prepare yourself for your first DBT session, says Shah.

Ultimately, this work culminated in a comprehensive, evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). The standard DBT treatment package consists of weekly individual therapy sessions (approximately 1 hour), a weekly group skills training session (approximately 1.5–2.5 hours), and a therapist consultation team dialectical behavioral therapy meeting (approximately 1–2 hours). At present, eight published, well-controlled, randomized, clinical trials (RCTs) have demonstrated that DBT is an efficacious and specific2 treatment for BPD and related problems. The standard form of DBT consists of individual therapy, skills training group, phone coaching, and a therapist consultation team.

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In addition to regular therapy sessions, people are also required to do “homework” to work on skills outside of the individual, group, and phone counseling sessions. This may pose a challenge for people who have difficulty keeping up with these assignments on a regular basis. Because this approach to therapy is able to help people successfully improve their coping skills, they are able to develop effective ways to manage and express strong emotions. Researchers have also found that DBT is effective regardless of a person’s age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity.

For instance, while it may prove helpful for managing emotional responses to certain triggers, it may not provide the space you need to dig deep enough into how past events affected you. One of the main limitations of DBT, according to Milhoan, is there aren’t always enough therapists trained in this modality to meet the high demand for this treatment. Kerwin also suggests using Behavior Tech’s Find A Therapist tool to find mental health professionals who have been trained at the Linehan-founded DBT Institute. This is intended for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder who have a therapist in the community whom they see at least bi-weekly. Shorter programs, sometimes called “DBT-informed programs,” use some methods or structure of DBT and can be very helpful for certain people. While DBT has shown promising results for many individuals, it’s important to acknowledge that it may not be effective for everyone.


Cognitive Behavior Therapy vs Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Exploring the Similarities and Differences

They both deal with thoughts and behaviors that can lead to poor coping responses, negative emotions, and relapse. Furthermore, it placed a greater focus on the emotions and social aspects, and it helped people better regulate their emotions. It’s geared toward individuals that are experiencing more severe, unstable, or harmful behaviors.

  • Additionally, a 2021 study of 1,589 participants examined the effects of CBT on anxiety symptoms.
  • The client and therapist work together for the session, and then the client will often have homework to take home.
  • Because this approach to therapy is able to help people successfully improve their coping skills, they are able to develop effective ways to manage and express strong emotions.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) first appeared in the 1990s for treating borderline personality disorder (BPD) and suicidal behaviors. Today, mental health professionals use it to treat other complex conditions and issues as well. The main goal of therapists who use dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is to strike a balance between validation (acceptance) of who you are and your challenges and the benefits of change. Your therapist will help you learn new skills to improve emotion regulation.

Anxiety symptoms

If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, it’s always best to seek out the help of a qualified mental health professional. In practice, the therapist validates that an individual’s actions “make sense” within the context of their personal experiences without necessarily agreeing that the actions are the best approach to solving a problem. The idea is to distract yourself by allowing your emotions to follow your body. Distress tolerance techniques help prepare you for intense emotions and empower you to cope with them with a more positive long-term outlook. Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary.

These findings will be useful to support future research into use of psychotherapy for GAD. Also, the application of DBT to other mental disorders that involve problems with emotion regulation and EF should be able to improve therapy for mental disorders and reduce the severity of mental disorders. The effects of dialectical behavior therapy on generalized anxiety disorder have not been examined to date, whereas cognitive behavioral therapy is a well-known psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder. If you have borderline personality disorder, you have probably heard of both cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. Let’s take a closer look at these types of behavioral therapies and how they are related. When you enter a treatment program for substance use disorders or mental health issues, there will be several therapy options that are available.

Mental Health

CBT is more established, while DBT is newer and currently studied to determine its effectiveness and applicability in different situations. On the other hand, if you’re facing a lot of crises, dealing with suicidal thoughts, or need help regulating emotions, DBT may be a better option. If you are trying to decide between the two, CBT may be a better option if you want to work on how your patterns of thinking may be causing challenges in your life and what you can do to overcome those challenges.

  • Emotion regulation lets you navigate powerful feelings in a more effective way.
  • Relationships between a client and their therapist are generally one of the most important ones.
  • Studies also demonstrated high rates of treatment satisfaction, therapeutic alliance, and treatment fidelity, but data establishing effectiveness and efficacy compared to other leading approaches were mixed or incomplete.
  • Your therapist will guide you in developing strategies to address challenges and work towards your goals.

A vast array of literature supports CBT as a standard treatment for anxiety disorders. A 2019 literature review found that 12 months after the completion of treatment, individuals who received CBT treatment reported lower anxiety symptoms when they were compared to a control group. For example, a 2020 research study that examined the effectiveness of DBT treatment compared to a control group of adolescents found that DBT significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adolescents in an inpatient unit. Dialectal behavior therapy (DBT) is based on CBT principles but incorporates principles of mindfulness practice.

Choosing Between DBT and CBT

The goal is not to eliminate all feelings of distress, but rather to relearn that your body and brain can withstand normal distress without shutting down. Eventually, you may be able to participate in an activity you’ve been avoiding, or directly engage with what you fear. Skills training groups offer a structured setting for learning and practicing DBT skills. Led by a trained therapist, these dialectical behavioral therapy groups provide education on the core concepts of DBT and offer opportunities for group discussions and exercises. By participating in skills training groups, individuals can reinforce their understanding of DBT skills and receive support from others facing similar challenges. Join our Grouport DBT series today and start improving your mental health alongside a supportive group of individuals.

cognitive behavioral therapy vs dialectical behavioral therapy