Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an offshoot of cognitive behavioral therapy, developed in the late 1980s to help people with borderline personality disorder. Research shows DBT is highly effective for the disorder and it’s now used successfully in combination with other approaches for binge eating disorder and several other psychiatric conditions.
DBT is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy in that it focuses on the need to change thinking and behaviors, although it includes important aspects of validation to help clients comply with treatment. DBT emphasizes self-acceptance and identification of harmful, destructive behavioral patterns. Initially, clients learn to accept unpleasant or unwanted thoughts, attitudes and actions in a nonjudgmental manner. After acceptance, clients work to change their unhealthy behaviors.
DBT stresses emotion regulation, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness and distress tolerance, helping clients make improvements in all these areas. It teaches clients how to cope with the damaging impact of problematic thoughts, attitudes and behavioral patterns in specific, real-life situations. DBT helps individuals identify personal strengths and build on them so they have a better attitude about themselves and life in general. DBT decreases the incidence of self-harming behaviors at a greater rate than alternative treatments.
DBT is highly collaborative, providing clients with support and feedback throughout the entire therapeutic process. This enables development of meaningful relationships between client and therapist, thereby fostering improved commitment to treatment. DBT enhances the client’s motivation to change and ability to respond positively and productively.