DBT stands for dialectical behavioral therapy and can be thought of as a slightly modified version of CBT.

DBT’s aim is to help you be more present in your everyday life, learn healthy coping skills for stress, and manage emotions. DBT can also help improve your relationships with other people.

DBT was initially thought of as a treatment for borderline personality disorder but has proven effective in treating other mental health issues.

It’s a particularly effective therapy if you are having trouble regulating emotions, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or are engaging in self-destructive behaviors. These self-destructive behaviors include substance use disorders.

At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier habits and build a life in long term recovery.

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In this article, you’ll read about:

  • The techniques used in DBT
  • How DBT can benefit you
  • Who DBT is for

Techniques in DBT

There are some different settings where DBT is used. These can include:

  • One on one Therapy – You work with a mental health professional to identify any challenges you have. In this setting, behavioral skills are taught so they may be applied to these challenges.
  • Group therapy – You and other patients can learn behavioral skills together in an environment where you get strong peer support.
  • Phone guidance – Between your therapy sessions, you can contact your therapist when you find yourself in a difficult situation.

Here are some of the techniques that are used in these settings.


Mindfulness has become an everyday term in recent years. It can be traced back to Buddhist meditation practices. Developing mindfulness skills is an important benefit associated with DBT. Mindfulness can help you live in the present moment.

The thinking mind can easily become overactive. There are many things people may find themselves thinking about constantly such as:

  • job
  • advancement of career
  • taking care of children
  • strained relationships
  • finances

This overactive mind can leave you exhausted and lead to mental health challenges. DBT helps you focus on what’s around you by paying attention to your current thoughts, feelings, impulses, and sensations.

Focusing on what you are currently experiencing through your senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch) can help you relax and fully experience the present moment.

Mindfulness skills allow you to pause before engaging in impulsive behavior and challenge any negative thoughts you may be having about a current situation.

Distress Tolerance Techniques

Distress tolerance techniques can help with self-acceptance as well as your acceptance of your current life situation. These techniques include:

  • Self-soothing
  • Distraction
  • Improving the moment

By using these techniques you can better prepare yourself for overwhelming emotions and cope with them in a healthy manner.

Healthy Relationships

DBT can give you the tools to be more assertive when it comes to relationships with other people. Being assertive in relationships means expressing how you are feeling and establishing healthy boundaries.

DBT techniques for personal relationships focus on listening skills, communication skills, self-respect, respect for others, and dealing with challenging personalities.

An acronym used in DBT for improving relationships is GIVE:

  • Gentle – When a conflict arises, refrain from attacking, threatening, or judging others.
  • Interest – Listen intently when someone is talking to you. Don’t just think about what you are going to say next when someone is talking. Show them that you are interested in what they are talking about
  • Validate – Let the other person know that you acknowledge their thoughts and feelings especially if the two of you are having a disagreement.
  • Easy – Take it easy. Try to remain light-hearted and smile often

Regulating Emotions

Dealing with emotions can be difficult for just about anybody. You may have a multitude of feelings but are unable to identify them.

With DBT emotional regulation techniques you learn how to identify your emotions and learn to change your thoughts about them. This can lead to more positive and healthy emotions.

What Mental Health Issues DBT Can Help With

DBT was initially developed because CBT didn’t seem to be adequate for the treatment of people with borderline personality disorder. Since then, DBT has been an effective method for treating many mental health conditions such as:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Anorexia
  • Bulimia
  • Binge eating
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Treatment-resistant major depression
  • Chronic depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Substance use disorder

DBT Benefits

DBT focuses on offering validation. This is where a therapist validates the actions of an individual as understandable in light of their personal experiences. At the same time the therapist doesn’t have to necessarily agree with the individual’s actions/coping skills.

DBT individual counseling, group counseling, and therapist phone calls are among the methods that can be extremely beneficial to an individual.

These benefits include:

  • Self-acceptance and acceptance of life circumstances.
  • Positive behavioral changes that improve your relationships with yourself and others
  • Learning to identify destructive self-talk and behavior so they can be replaced by positive self-talk and healthy behaviors.
  • Feeling better about yourself by identifying attributes and strengths

Who is DBT For?

Studies have found that regardless of an individual’s age, race/ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation, DBT can help them make positive changes in their life.

CBT is more well-known than DBT. Perhaps you have only been exposed to CBT and found that your emotional well-being hasn’t improved. DBT can give you a different approach that may be more effective.

DBT can help anyone but those suffering with borderline personality disorder and addiction issues can benefit greatly from it. If you have an overactive mind, negative self-talk, and a self-defeating attitude, DBT can help.

DBT requires you to be committed to the improvement of your mental health. To get the most out of it you need to put what you learn into practical application.

If you want to know if DBT is for you, talk to a mental health professional.

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At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier coping skills and build a recovery supportive network in all aspects.

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