Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a type of talking therapy. It is designed for the specific needs of people who experience very strong emotions.
What is DBT?
DBT, a form of cognitive behaviour therapy, is designed to help people change unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving while also accepting who they are.
It helps you learn to manage your emotions by letting you recognise, experience and accept them. DBT can also help you understand why you might harm yourself, so you are more likely to change your harmful behaviour.
DBT is usually used to help people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. People with this disorder feel intense, uncontrollable emotions, have troubled relationships and have a disturbed sense of self.
When is DBT used?
DBT is often used to treat problems associated with borderline personality disorder, such as:
- repeated self-harming
- attempting suicide
- alcohol or drug problems
- eating disorders, such as bingeing or bulimia
- unstable relationships
- feelings of hopelessness
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
A therapist may also look at other problems that can affect a person's quality of life, such as traumatic experiences, as well as financial stress, employment and relationship problems.
What can I expect from DBT?
DBT usually includes:
- individual sessions with a therapist
- skills training in groups
- telephone coaching sessions with a therapist if you are experiencing a crisis
DBT therapists often work in teams and help each other, so they can provide the best treatment possible.
A typical course of DBT involves weekly sessions. These may continue for a year, but will depend upon the needs of the individual.
How does DBT help?
DBT helps you gain control over your behaviour. Your therapist will work with you to find new behaviours to replace harmful ones.
DBT relies on a strong relationship between you and your therapist, which helps motivate you to change your behaviour and reach your goals.
In the group sessions, you will learn about:
- dealing with crises
- personal relationship techniques
- skills to manage your emotions
- impulse control
DBT and mindfulness
Mindfulness is being self-aware and present in the moment (the 'here and now'). When you are mindful you are able to observe what’s going on around you instead of being caught up in emotion, or worrying about the past or the future.
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Last reviewed: March 2020