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6 Things You Can Expect From Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is becoming more commonly available.  With its spread, more people are referred to DBT therapists and groups and are considering entering DBT treatment.  But what is it?  If you enter treatment, what you can expect?  How will your therapist respond to you?  What will be the focus of the treatment?

There are three primary treatment activities in DBT.  These are individual therapy, group skills training and coaching in crisis situations.  Individual therapy and the skills training group usually meet each week, while coaching in crisis occurs as necessary.  Each of these 3 activities has specific goals and structure, which are usually explained to you at the beginning of treatment.  Regardless of whether it’s individual, group or a crisis, DBT treatment is comprised of the following 6 characteristics.

  1. DBT is supportive.  The treatment providers support you in your attempts to decrease problem behaviors, such as self-destructive behaviors, substance use and aggression.  They help you recognize positive strengths and attributes and encourage you to develop and use these.
  2. DBT is behavioral.  The skills group and therapy sessions focus on teaching you to analyze problem behavior patterns and to replace destructive behavior with healthy and effective behavior.
  3. DBT is cognitive.  The therapy and group focus on changing beliefs, expectations, and assumptions that are no longer effective or helpful.  The therapist will help you notice and challenge all or nothing thinking and tendencies to be over judgmental.
  4. DBT is skill oriented.  Structured skill training is designed to teach new skills and enhance capabilities.
  5. DBT balances acceptance and change.  The treatment is focused on both accepting you and the difficulties of your current situation as well as helping you to make changes.  It has specific strategies designed to increase your ability to accept and tolerate painful feelings, your current life situation, and yourself.  It will also expect you to learn new skills, try different ways of behaving and interacting with others and be committed to making changes.
  6. DBT requires a collaborative relationship.  In DBT it is important that you and your therapist function as a team to achieve goals.  It is essential that all team members (i.e. you, therapist, groups therapist, psychiatrist etc.) work on their communication and collaboration to make progress.
6 Things You Can Expect From Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Christy Matta, MA

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APA Reference
Matta, C. (2010). 6 Things You Can Expect From Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2019, from


Last updated: 7 Sep 2010
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