Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, cope healthily with stress, regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others.
It was originally intended for people with borderline personality disorder but has since been adapted for other conditions where the patient exhibits self-destructive behavior, such as eating disorders and substance abuse. It is also sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
DBT was developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan and colleagues when they discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy alone did not work as well as expected in patients with borderline personality disorder. Dr. Linehan and her team added techniques and developed a treatment which would meet the unique needs of these patients.
Another technique offered by Linehan and her colleagues was validation. Linehan and her team found that with validation, along with the push for change, patients were more likely to cooperate and less likely to suffer distress at the idea of change. The therapist validates that the person's actions "make sense" within the context of his personal experiences without necessarily agreeing that they are the best approach to solving the problem.
DBT has now evolved into a standard type of cognitive behavioral therapy. When a person is undergoing DBT, they can expect to participate in three therapeutic settings:
In DBT, individual therapists also meet with a consultation team to help them stay motivated in treating their patients and help them navigate difficult and complex issues.
People undergoing DBT are taught how to effectively change their behavior using four main strategies:
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