Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program (DBT)

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy was developed at the University of Washington by Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D. DBT was originally developed to treat interpersonal chaos, intense emotional swings, impulsiveness, confusion about the self (identity), and suicidal behavior.

DBT is based on a bio-social theory that states that problems develop from the interaction of biological factors (physiological makeup) and environmental factors (learning history), which together create difficulty managing emotions.

DBT is therefore appropriate for a range of additional problems that relate to emotion dysregulation, including substance use problems, eating disordered behavior, and anger-related problems. A great deal of research has been conducted on the effectiveness of DBT and, in general, DBT appears as effective or more effective than other psychotherapies for the problems mentioned above.

To reach the ultimate goal of DBT—creating a life worth living—the therapy balances empathy and warm acceptance (validation) with an unwavering focus on changing problem behavior (problem-solving). Through this balance, DBT aims to help change the behavioral, emotional, and thinking patterns associated with problems in living, while promoting the development of and reliance on inner wisdom (wise mind).

What do we treat?

As noted above, DBT has been shown to be effective for a variety of problems and has been found to be the most helpful for problems related to the following:

  • Rapidly shifting emotions that are difficult to manage
  • Extreme emotional states that interfere with daily activities
  • Impulsive behavior associated with emotional extremes including self-harm and suicidal behavior
  • Difficulty managing and expressing anger
  • Lack of a sense of self or identity
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Difficulty in interpersonal relationships


Linehan, M. (1993) Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. Guilford Press.
Linehan. M. (1993) Skills training manual for treating borderline personality disorder. Guilford Press.

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