What to Know About DBT Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an effective, therapeutic method used to treat a variety of mental health disorders. It was originally developed in the 1980s to treat individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder. However, over time, DBT has been expanding to treat other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

Philadelphia, Main Line DBT Therapists

What Is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is considered to be a type of talk-therapy for individuals who feel emotions very intensely. By using components from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), DBT focuses on changing the client’s lives by helping them accept their reality and understand the root of their behaviors. DBT teaches skills relating to emotional regulation and identification of unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.

Core Components of DBT

  • Mindfulness: This is a skill of grounding yourself to the present moment. Mindfulness is useful for understanding emotions and how they affect decision-making.
  • Distress Tolerance: A way for individuals to manage themselves in a crisis situation. This may include techniques such as self-soothing, distractions, and radical acceptance.
  • Emotional Regulation: Involves fully understanding and being aware of emotions and how to maintain control over them.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: Setting boundaries, maintaining respect and love for yourself, and learning how to communicate wants and needs with people close to you.

The Structure of DBT

DBT methods can be utilized in a few different structures:

  • DBT Assessments: First, a mental health professional will conduct an assessment to determine if DBT will benefit you. If you decide it is the right therapy for your treatment, you and your therapist will work together on commitment and length of sessions.
  • Individual Therapy: Engaging in one-on-one sessions with a therapist will help cater to the client’s needs. Individual sessions allow professionals to teach DBT skills and monitor their progress closely.
  • Group Skills: Clients can engage in sessions in a classroom-like setting with other individuals who are learning and practicing the same skills. Additionally, clients can form connections with others who may be struggling with similar experiences.
  • Phone Coaching: This means that you have access to your therapist in between sessions when immediate support is needed. However, therapists do have the right to set boundaries on when you can call, so make sure you have other emergency resources available.

Effectiveness of DBT

Research has shown that DBT is effective in reducing self-harm, suicidal ideations, and harmful emotional reactions. However, DBT is only as successful as the commitment from the client. In order to meet the maximum benefits of therapy, clients and their therapists need to fully commit to the therapeutic process.

In addition to commitment, counselors have the expectation that their clients will actively participate in sessions, as well as practice the skills in their daily lives. Homework may be assigned to help the individual remember and incorporate skills outside of sessions.

Recovery and Outlook

DBT normally takes about 6 months to a year, depending on the person. Since all individuals are unique, there is really no specific timeline for treatment progress. It’s also important to remember that you may not be entirely “symptom-free” after your sessions are complete. DBT aims to teach you skills, but it is up to you to retain the information you are learning.

Try not to be down on yourself if your progress feels slow. The end goal is to improve your quality of life, and committing to DBT sessions is only going to help. Remember, any progress is good progress.

If you are considering DBT, it’s essential to find a therapist with DBT qualifications. You can find this information by researching the therapist’s credentials. Normally, professionals will list their specializations through mental health organizations or professional directories. You can also ask for referrals through your primary care provider. If you feel DBT may be right for you, consider reaching out to a mental health professional to explore your options!


At Therapy for Women, we have a number of DBT Specialists. Reach out to learn more about our therapists who specialize in DBT therapy. Click here.