What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
Part 1 of 5
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) treats a wide variety of disorders, including substance dependence, depression, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders. The goal of DBT is to help patients build a life that they feel is worth living. In DBT, patients receive help through individual therapy, phone coaching, a therapist consultation team, and group therapy.
The first key component of DBT is individual therapy. Therapists will often have their patients use diary cards, which are specially formatted cards that patients use to track when their target symptoms occurred and if, and which, skill they used to cope with it. During individual therapy, the therapist and patient discuss the problems that came up on the diary cards.
When discussing the patient’s issues, the therapists will follow a treatment target hierarchy. Life-threatening behaviors take first priority. Behaviors which, while not directly harmful to self or others, interfere with the course of treatment, take second priority. Quality of life issues takes third priority. As the patient and therapist discuss these problems, the therapist teaches the patient problem-solving behaviors to help them deal with these problems in the future.
Phone coaching provides in-the-moment support. Patients can call their therapist between sessions to receive coaching when they need help the most. The goal is to coach patients on how to use their DBT skills to effectively cope with difficult situations that arise in their everyday lives.
Therapist Consultation Team
The DBT consultation team includes the individual therapists, group therapy leaders, case managers, and others who help with the patient. The purpose of the consultation team is to help therapists stay motivated and competent so they can provide the best treatment possible.
In a group setting, patients learn about behavioral skills. These skills are broken down into four skill modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. These skills are foundational to DBT. To learn about what makes these four skills essential to DBT, look for our upcoming blog posts.