What is DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Explains Shivani Sadhoo

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a form of psychotherapy developed by psychologist Dr. Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s. Initially designed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD), DBT has since been adapted to address a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Its effectiveness has been widely recognized, making it a prominent approach in contemporary psychotherapy.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapist Shivani Sadhoo says, at its core, DBT integrates cognitive-behavioral techniques with concepts of acceptance and mindfulness. It operates on the premise that some people are more prone to experiencing intense emotions and struggle with regulating them effectively. Therefore, the primary goal of DBT is to help individuals learn skills to manage their emotions, improve relationships, and build a life worth living.

One of the distinguishing features of DBT is its dialectical approach, which emphasizes finding a balance between acceptance and change. Dialectics, in this context, refers to the synthesis of opposing concepts or perspectives. DBT encourages individuals to accept themselves and their current circumstances while simultaneously striving for positive change. This dialectical philosophy underpins every aspect of the therapy.

What are the primary components of DBT?

Delhi’s leading couples and Dialectical Behavioral Therapist Shivani Misri Sadhoo in this blog discusses that DBT consists of four primary components as explained below:

  1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness skills are central to DBT and serve as the foundation for the other components. Mindfulness involves being present in the moment, observing and describing experiences without judgment. By cultivating mindfulness, individuals learn to tolerate distressing situations, reduce emotional reactivity, and increase awareness of their thoughts and feelings.
  2. Distress Tolerance: Distress tolerance skills focus on helping individuals cope with crises and overwhelming emotions without resorting to destructive behaviors. Techniques such as distraction, self-soothing, and radical acceptance enable individuals to navigate distressing situations effectively and avoid impulsive reactions.
  3. Emotion Regulation: Emotion regulation skills help individuals identify, understand, and manage their emotions in healthy ways. This component teaches strategies for increasing positive emotions, reducing vulnerability to negative emotions, and effectively expressing feelings without causing harm to oneself or others.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: Interpersonal effectiveness skills equip individuals with the tools to navigate relationships assertively, set boundaries, and communicate effectively. By learning to balance priorities, assert needs, and negotiate conflicts, individuals can build more satisfying and fulfilling relationships.

DBT is typically delivered in both individual therapy sessions and group skills training sessions. Individual therapy focuses on addressing specific issues and developing personalized strategies for coping with challenges, while group skills training provides a structured environment for learning and practicing DBT skills with peers.

Throughout the therapy process, the therapist adopts a collaborative and validating approach, emphasizing the client’s strengths and validating their experiences. Additionally, therapists adhere to a consultation team model, where they receive supervision and support to ensure adherence to the principles of DBT and effectively address complex clinical situations.

Research has demonstrated the efficacy of DBT across a variety of populations and settings. Studies have shown significant improvements in symptom reduction, emotion regulation, and overall functioning among individuals receiving DBT compared to those receiving other forms of treatment or no treatment at all.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to treating various mental health conditions. By integrating mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness skills, DBT empowers individuals to manage their emotions, build healthier relationships, and lead more fulfilling lives. Its dialectical philosophy emphasizes acceptance and change, providing a framework for growth and transformation. As DBT continues to evolve and adapt, it remains a valuable tool in the field of psychotherapy, offering hope and healing to countless individuals worldwide.