What is DBT?

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP. It emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living. DBT skills include skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

The UCSF DBT Program for Adolescents and Young Adults created a fun, easy-to-understand overview of DBT (8 minutes).

DBT was originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and it is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population. In addition, research has shown that it is effective in treating a wide range of other disorders such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

On this page:

What are the components of DBT?

The goal of DBT is to help clients build a life that they experience as worth living. In DBT, the client and the therapist work together to set goals that are meaningful to the client. Often this means they work on ways to decrease harmful behaviors and replace them with effective, life-enhancing behaviors.

DBT has five components that work together that make up a standard DBT program. This is different than many other psychotherapies that consist of just one mode or aspect of treatment (e.g., individual therapy). Each component or mode of treatment is intended to meet a specific function