What is DBT?

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT, Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others.1

DBT was originally intended to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it has been adapted to  can help people who have difficulty with emotional regulation or are exhibiting self-destructive behaviours ,eating disorders, anxiety, and substance use disorders). DBT is sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Counselling session with child


DBT was developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan and colleagues when they discovered that cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) alone did not work as well as expected in patients with BPD. Dr. Linehan and her team added techniques and developed a treatment to meet the unique needs of these patients.

DBT incorporates a philosophical process called dialectics. Dialectics is based on the concept that everything is composed of opposites and that change occurs when there is a “dialogue” between opposing forces.

In DBT, a client and therapist work to resolve the apparent contradiction between self-acceptance and change to bring about positive changes in the patient.

Another technique offered by Linehan and her colleagues was validation. Linehan and her team found that when validation was used along with the push for change, clients were more likely to cooperate and less likely to suffer distress at the idea of change.

In practice, the therapist validates that a client’s actions “make sense” within the context of their personal experiences without necessarily agreeing that they are the best approach to solving a problem

DBT accepts and works with the fact that some people, due to environment and/or biology, react abnormally to emotional stimulation. Their levels of arousal rise very quickly and peak at a higher level than the average individual, because  they do not have a method of coping with these intense and often sudden surges of emotion.

DBT Strategies

People undergoing DBT are taught how to effectively change their behaviour using four main strategies.

Core Mindfulness

Perhaps the most important strategy used in DBT is developing mindfulness skills. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present or “live in the moment.” This helps you pay attention to what is happening inside you (your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses) as well as using your senses to tune in to what’s happening around you (what you see, hear, smell, and touch) in non-judgmental ways.

Mindfulness skills help you slow down and focus on using healthy coping skills when you are in the midst of emotional pain. The strategy can also help you stay calm and avoid engaging in automatic negative thought patterns and impulsive behaviour.

Helping hand

Distress Tolerance

Distress Tolerance helps you accept yourself and your current situation. You will four techniques for handling a crisis:

  • Distraction
  • Improving the moment
  • Self-soothing
  • Thinking of the pros and cons of not tolerating distress
  • Distress tolerance techniques help prepare you for intense emotions and empower you to cope with them with a more positive long-term outlook.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness helps you to become more assertive in a relationship (for example, expressing your needs and be able to say “no”) while still keeping a relationship positive and healthy. You will learn to listen and communicate more effectively, deal with challenging people, and respect yourself and others.

Emotion Regulation

Emotional Regulation lets you navigate powerful feelings in a more effective way. The skills you learn will help you to identify, name, and change your emotions. When you are able to recognize and cope with intense negative emotions (for example, anger), it reduces your emotional vulnerability and helps you have more positive emotional experiences.


All personal details and information discussed inside, and outside sessions are kept strictly confidential. Further aspects of this will be discussed in the first session.

Contact Carolyn regarding a DBT appointment

Carolyn has: Level 2 Accreditation in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Essentials with The Association For Psychological Therapies (APT).
To make an appointment or if you have any questions regarding DBT call or text Carolyn on 085 7264514 or fill in the enquiry form here