Dialectical behavioral therapy, often known as DBT, is designed to help people cope with difficult emotions and handle the challenges of interpersonal relationships. Dialectical behavioral therapy was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder, but over time it has proven to be an effective treatment for a diverse amount of other mental health disorders.
Conditions that DBT can help include mood disorders, self-harm, substance use disorder, and other dangerous behavioral patterns. Dialectical behavioral therapy is an approach to talk therapy that is about developing strategies for dealing with emotional challenges and handling difficulties in relationships that often occur for people with mental illnesses.
Dialectical behavioral therapy helps people develop tools and coping strategies in four primary areas: distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. In a sense, dialectical behavioral therapy pursues two contradictory goals: helping people to accept the emotions they experience while working simultaneously to change these emotions.
Initially, clinicians begin by helping people to accept their emotions and practice self-compassion. During the course of treatment, however, they begin to implement techniques that are designed to replace negative thought processes with less maladaptive ones.
Where does the term dialectical behavioral therapy come from? Clinicians synthesize two contradictory treatment approaches, acceptance and change, in a manner that is similar to the philosophical approach known historically as “dialectic.” The dialectical approach, which dates back to Ancient Greece, involves synthesizing opposites, known as thesis and antithesis. When they’ve been combined, the result is known as synthesis. The synthetic result is intended to be better than the sum of its parts.
Dialectical behavioral therapy is an evidence-based approach to treatment for mental health disorders. It is intended to address people’s needs in a comprehensive fashion. Despite originally being intended to help people with borderline personality disorder, it is now an important part of a wide variety of treatment programs. Dialectical behavioral therapy is a common treatment approach at most outpatient treatment centers for mental health disorders and substance use disorders.