Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)


Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy tries to identify and change negative thinking patterns and pushes for positive behavioral changes.

DBT may be used to treat suicidal and other self-destructive behaviors. It teaches patients skills to cope with, and change, unhealthy behaviors.

  • Acceptance and change. You’ll learn strategies to accept and tolerate your life circumstances, emotions, and yourself. You will also develop skills that can help you make positive changes in your behaviors and interactions with others.
  • Behavioral. You’ll learn to analyze problems or destructive behavior patterns and replace them with more healthy and effective ones.
  • Cognitive. You’ll focus on changing thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and actions that are not effective or helpful.
  • Collaboration. You’ll learn to communicate effectively and work together as a team (therapist, group therapist, psychiatrist).
  • Skill sets. You’ll learn new skills to enhance your capabilities.
  • Support. You’ll be encouraged to recognize your positive strengths and attributes and develop and use them.

What are DBT Skills?

People learning DBT are taught how to effectively change their behavior using four main strategies.

Core Mindfulness is perhaps the most important strategy 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 tune in to what’s happening around you (what you see, hear, smell, and touch) in nonjudgmental 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 behavior.

Distress Tolerance help prepare you for intense emotions and empower you to cope with them with a more positive way, allowing you to accept yourself and your current situation.

These skills include:

  • Distraction
  • Improving the moment
  • Self-soothing
  • Thinking of the pros and cons of not tolerating distress

Interpersonal Effectiveness helps you to become more assertive in a relationship 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 lets you navigate powerful feelings in a more effective way. The skills you learn will help you to identify, name and change your experience of emotions.


DBT might be an effective treatment for those struggling with:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • Eating disorders (such as anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Major depressive disorder (including treatment-resistant major depression and chronic depression)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorder

If you would like more information about DBT or would like to get connected with a therapist and/or skills group, we would love for you to connect with you. Email us at  Admin@TraumaTherapyNashville.com. You may also check out our Groups listed under the “Services” tab at the top of the page to see if we have a current group offering.

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