What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)? Dialectical Behavior Therapy or "DBT" is considered a cognitive therapy that helps people learn new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships with other people. DBT focuses on four main areas: Mindfulness Distress tolerance Emotional regulation Interpersonal effectiveness Mindfulness is a state of mind where people become aware of the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting their feelings, thoughts and body. It's a therapy technique that trains people how to put life experiences in perspective instead of reacting emotionally to situations. Distress tolerance is just what it sounds like, a way to increase the ability to cope with distress. When we're stressed, our bodies react physically. A person's muscles may tense, they may become hot or their breathing becomes labored. DBT teaches how to reverse the physical reactions to stress. Emotional regulation is something people learn to do as they mature. Negative emotions like anxiety, anger and frustration can cause us to behave in ways we don't want to. That behavior can cause us to feel regret for the things we say or do, adding to our negative emotions. Emotional regulation therapy teaches how to take charge of emotions in order to improve mood and increase feelings of self-worth and empathy toward others. Interpersonal effectiveness refers to the skills that help people balance priorities vs. demands, attend to relationships, distinguish "wants" from "shoulds" and build a sense of mastering life and gaining self-respect. Developing these skills improves the relationships we have with people in our lives. What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Used For? DBT is used to treat many mental health conditions such as borderline personality disorders, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic disorder, suicidality and substance use disorders. It can be used for any condition where a person wants to improve their mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. How Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Work? DBT therapy is typically a combination of individual therapy with a certified therapist along with DBT groups. Skills are learned and then practiced outside of therapy. Therapists may assign homework; group members report their experiences back to the group. Both the therapist and group members can provide advice and feedback about those experiences to keep participants motivated and on course. The length of time in DBT depends on individual progress in achieving skills learned. Why Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Effective? DBT is effective because it assumes some people lack certain skills to cope with life. DBT teaches the necessary skills to function successfully in life. It provides real-life techniques for improving those skills with clinical support so they can continue to improve on those skills. How Effective Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy? DBT is effective for those who are motivated to change. It has been proven effective in many cases for individuals from diverse background in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity. It has been validated effective by research. Who Benefits from Dialectical Behavior Therapy? Although originally developed to treat mental health disorders such as borderline personality disorder, DBT has been effective in treating a number of other disorders such as depression and mood disorders, anxiety, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol addictions. Why Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy so Effective in Addiction Recovery? According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), DBT is successful in treating addiction because the patient learns to envision, articulate, pursue and sustain goals that are independent of his or her history of out-of-control behavior, including substance abuse, and is better able to grapple with life's ordinary problems. DBT emphasizes building a life worth living. DBT is just one therapy used in recovery from alcohol or other drug addictions. It should not be the only therapy to treat addiction. A good treatment provider will use a number of different evidence-based therapies, including Twelve Step facilitation. How Was Dialectical Behavior Therapy Developed? According to (NCBI), DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s as a way to treat people with borderline personality disorders and chronically suicidal individuals. Linehan combed through the literature on efficacious psychosocial treatments for other disorders—such as anxiety disorders, depression and other emotion-related difficulties—and assembled a package of evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral interventions that directly targeted suicidal behavior.