What is DBT?

What is DBT?

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It is a very effective form of psychotherapy that treats many different things including serious depression, suicidal thoughts, self harm, substance & more. DBT is a revolutionary, evidence-based type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy that was designed to help you work with your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Marsha Linehan, a renowned research psychologist, developed DBT in 1980.

Is DBT the Same as CBT?

All of the letters used to describe different types of counseling can be confusing.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was one of the first types of counseling that was researched and considered “evidence based.”  DBT is a form of CBT. Both use talk therapy to help clients better understand and manage their thoughts and behavior.  Research has shown that both CBT and DBT can be very effective forms of psychotherapy and can be very helpful for the right client. However, there are some very specific things that set DBT apart from general CBT.

What Makes DBT Different?

Teen boy in hoodie looking at the ground | Comprehensive DBT Program for Adults and Teens | DBT for Borderline Personality Disorder | Atlanta area - Alpharetta, GA 30022

DBT help clients who struggle with regulating their extreme emotions. The assumption is that individuals engage in harmful, risky or extreme behaviors, because they are looking for a solution for extreme emotional distress that they don’t know how else to cope with.

The first priority of DBT is to make sure clients stay alive.  The truth is that a person must be alive to make meaningful progress. However, the second goal is to keep the client in therapy.  Then, the ultimate goal of DBT is to help move clients towards building a life worth living.

Clients who are referred for DBT often show extreme behaviors. For instance, DBT clients might be coming to counseling with suicidal thoughts or actions, self-harming behaviors, disordered eating, drug or alcohol abuse, risky sexual behaviors, etc. DBT has been proven to help clients understand their extreme emotions and the triggers that lead them to engage in harmful behaviors. Clients learn new coping skills to apply during times of distress so they can avoid undesirable reactions.

However, it’s important to start by saying, DBT is not a suicide prevention program. Instead, a comprehensive DBT program like the one at Balance & Potential is designed to meet the your goals as our client.  We want to help you create a life full of the things that matter to you.

What does “Dialectical” mean?

The term “dialectical” means that two ideas that are opposites can both be true at the same time. For example, although “acceptance” and “change” are opposites, DBT helps you do both of these two things. On one hand, you must accept the fact that life can be hard and has challenges. However, you must want to change in order to meet your ultimate goal of living a life worth living. DBT therapists accept clients as they are, but they also push clients to use the skills they have learned to tolerate distress so they can achieve their goals.  In fact, as DBT therapists we must agree to believe both that a client is doing the best they can AND that the client can always do better.  At all times in DBT, we are balancing things that m might seem to be opposites, but we see the truth in each side.

Dialectics are a very difficult concept to understand, so don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed reading this section. Just know that your DBT therapist will be able to help you handle situations that are complicated.  Know that your DBT therapist will seek to understand and accept all of the big emotions you’re feeling.  At the same time, your therapist will help you create meaningful, long lasting changes in your life. Some of the skills you learn in DBT Skills training sessions or classes will be focused on the acceptance side of things helping you be more present in the here and now or helping you get through difficult situations without making them worse. Other DBT Skills you learn will be more focused on change.  These skills will help you tolerate distress using new coping skills or help you change how you interact with people.

DBT is:

  • Support oriented: it helps a person identify their strengths. Then it builds upon these strengths so that the person can feel better about him/herself and their life.  When you participate in a comprehensive DBT program, you will have more support than you may have had when you’ve attended counseling in the past.
  • Cognitive based: DBT helps to identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder. It helps people to learn different ways of thinking that will make life more bearable. Through DBT counseling sessions and skills training, you’ll learn to better understand your own thoughts.
  • Collaborative: This form of therapy requires constant attention to relationships between clients and staff. All relationships can be challenging at times.  The relationship between a therapist and client is no different. However, a DBT therapist sees any challenges in the relationship as an opportunity to practice all of the skills being taught.  Therefore, clients work out any problems they may have directly with their therapists in DBT.

How does DBT work?

Adherent DBT has two main components: one-on-one individual psychotherapy sessions, and weekly skills training group classes. Participating in DBT involves completing a journal for homework assignments, and the regular practicing of self- soothing skills when upset. New DBT skills are learned and practiced every week during group skills training classes. Then the client’s individual DBT therapist helps the person to learn, apply and master new skills.  Phone coaching is also available between appointments. Phone coaching helps clients manage their extreme emotions and use the skills they have learned to cope with their feeling and react in a more positive way.

The four types of DBT skills

When you participate in DBT Skills training, you will learn many, many new types of skills.  Some of these skills may be things you already do naturally, but we’ll help you learn to do those things more purposefully and effectively.  Other skills will be an entirely new way of approaching stressful situations.  The four main types of skills we’ll cover include mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation.

Young African American man practicing mindfulness skill | Comprehensive DBT Program for Borderline Personality Disorder | Alpharetta, GA 30022 - Atlanta, GA area

Mindfulness Skills

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware and accepting and present in this one moment. This helps you learn to notice and accept your thoughts and feelings without judgment.  In order to be effective, DBT skills must be used in a mindful, focused way.  Therefore, DBT therapist teach, model and ask clients to mindfulness skills throughout the course of treatment.

Distress Tolerance Skills

Distress Tolerance skills help you learn how to get through rough patches without turning to destructive coping strategies.  People who live lives that feel chaotic or out of control tend to be very excited to cover these skills.  This is one of those modules where you’ve probably tried a couple of these things to cope with stress in the past, but we’ll teach you some unique coping skills as well.

In general, the Distress Tolerance module can be very powerful for many participants.  This is where you’ll learn what you can do instead of that harmful behavior you’ve used in the past-whether that behavior was alcohol, drugs, self harm, suicidal thoughts, binge eating or something else altogether.  We know things can feel overwhelming at times.  Distress Tolerance is where you’ll learn new behaviors to help you. cope.

Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

Interpersonal Effectiveness refers the ability to be able to ask for what you want – or say no to things you don’t want — while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others.  One of our greatest needs as humans is to feel connected to others. When we cover interpersonal effectiveness skills, you’ll learn to think of your relationships in a new way.  We will talk about approaching difficult interpersonal conflicts or situations in a purposeful way so you can be more effective.

Emotion Regulation Skills

Emotion Regulation has to do with being able to change unwanted or excessively intense emotions, and deal with primary emotional reactions before they lead to a chain of distressing secondary reactions.  In this module, we’ll start with helping you become more aware of the emotions you feel at any given time.  Then, you’ll learn how to move the dial on emotions to help prevent things from getting to a point where you feel out of control.

Begin DBT Therapy in the Atlanta area:

Young hispanic woman looking happy in a park after participating in a comprehensive DBT counseling program at Balance and Potential Therapy in Alpharetta, GA 30022

Are you ready to begin Dialectical Behavior Therapy and learn the skills to help you create a life worth living? If so, our counseling practice in Alpharetta, GA may be a good fit for you. To begin Dialectical Behavior Therapy at Balance and Potential, follow these three steps:

  1. Contact our office to set up an appointment or initial free consultation
  2. Begin orientation to DBT with one of our caring therapists 
  3. Begin Dialectical Behavior Therapy & begin creating a life worth living!

Other Services offered at Balance and Potential Therapy in Alpharetta, GA

In addition to individual DBT therapy, Balance and Potential Therapy also offers DBT skills classes for teens and adults, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), play therapy, anxiety counseling, depression treatment, couples therapy, and mindfulness training.  Contact us to learn more about our other counseling services.


Contact Us Today

5755 North Point Parkway,
Suite 79

Alpharetta, GA 30022

(678) 644-0039

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