February 29, 2024
Mental Health

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a type of psychotherapy adapted from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. DBT is a skills-based therapy that focuses on mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. Through practice of DBT, we learn to accept the things we do not have control over and focus our energy on the things we do. 


The major players in the DBT world are Marsha Linehan, the original developer of DBT, and Lane Pederson, a psychologist who developed the first organization to certify DBT providers and accredit DBT programs. Dr. Linehan developed DBT after struggling with her own mental health issues. Dr. Linehan found that to build a life worth living, we have to practice both acceptance and changing our behaviors. 


Who can benefit from DBT?


DBT was first developed for the treatment of chronic suicidality in adults. We now have research supporting the use of DBT in adults with personality disorders, eating disorders, treatment-resistant depression, substance use, and a variety of other disorders. DBT is also evidence-based for the treatment of adolescents with various mental health disorders. 


If you are wondering, is DBT right for me? It is important to know that a formal diagnosis is not required for DBT skills to be helpful. If you are struggling with self-sabotage, unhealthy relationship patterns, struggling to cope with big emotions, poor impulse control, or engaging in risky behavior, or if you just feel like you’re getting in your own way, DBT might be just what you need.


When is it helpful?


The answer to that, from a DBT therapist, is always! 


DBT skills are often looked at as life skills. They are skills to help regulate strong emotions, build the ability to tolerate distress, engage in healthy and adaptive relationships, and build mindfulness skills for everyday practice. DBT can be most helpful when someone is struggling with managing and regulating emotions. 


Where is DBT offered in Nashville?


DBT can be offered along with other therapeutic approaches in psychotherapy sessions led by clinicians with the appropriate training and credentials. DBT is offered at The Happy Hour! DBT is most commonly offered in individual therapy and group therapy settings.  The skills are usually taught in session with a therapist and then practiced in your everyday life. Some DBT programs utilize Diary Cards to track the use of skills and severity of symptoms. 


For many, when starting out with DBT skills, it can feel difficult and frustrating when the skills don’t immediately click. I like to think of it as using a new muscle, at first it is difficult and hurts, but after time, it becomes easier and takes less energy to use that muscle. With DBT skills, we have to practice the skills for them to become effective and easy to use.


How does DBT work?


The original research on DBT supported a structured DBT approach to treatment, also known as standard DBT. Standard DBT was originally offered as a combination of individual therapy, skills group training, and client coaching. 


Through additional research and real-world practice, it was found that DBT is still effective in a more integrative approach. This means that you can see a therapist who practices a variety of modalities in combination with DBT in order to find the strategies and tools that both challenge and work for you. 




Curious to see how DBT could help you move out of your way, so you can live the life you know is meant for you?

Check out our upcoming DBT group, led by therapist, Amy Narusas.