Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). It’s based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but it’s specially adapted for people who experience emotions very intensely. CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps people understand how thoughts affect emotions and behaviors.
“Dialectical” means combining opposite ideas. DBT focuses on helping people accept the reality of their lives and their behaviors, as well as helping them learn to change their lives, including their unhelpful behaviors.
What is dialectical behavior therapy used for?
Dialectical behavior therapy is especially effective for people who have difficulty managing and regulating their emotions.
DBT has proven to be effective for treating and managing a wide range of mental health conditions, including:
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Suicidal behavior
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance use disorder
- Eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder and bulimia
It’s important to note that the reason DBT has proved effective for treating these conditions is that each of these conditions is thought to be associated with issues that result from unhealthy or problematic efforts to control intense, negative emotions. Rather than depending on efforts that cause problems for the person, DBT helps people learn healthier ways to cope.