What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, otherwise known as DBT, is a form of psychotherapy rooted in Cognitive science. Initially used to treat severe borderline personality disorder, DBT is currently used to treat high-risk individuals involved in forms of self-harm such as suicidal ideation or substance abuse. This therapy works to dismantle negative thinking processes and dysfunctional behavior by altering an individual’s internal dialogue and emotional regulation. DBT can be utilized as a primary form of therapy or supplemental therapy used in combination with others.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

How Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Work?

DBT is a form of talk therapy in which the therapist and client work together to “rewire” the client’s thought process, instilling acceptance and the desire to change behavioral patterns. Dialectical Behavior Therapy can be narrowed down to these four key elements:

  • Distress tolerance: Feeling intense emotions like anger without reacting impulsively or using substance abuse to dampen distress.

  • Emotion regulation: Recognizing, labeling, and adjusting emotions.

  • Mindfulness: Becoming more aware of self and others and attentive to the present moment.

  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Navigating conflict and interacting assertively.

The process of Dialectical Behavior Therapy is outlined in the four stages listed below

  • Stage 1: Treats the most self-destructive behavior, such as substance abuse or self-injury.

  • Stage 2: Begins to address quality-of-life skills, such as emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

  • Stage 3: Focuses on improved relationships and self-esteem.

  • Stage 4: Promotes more joy and relationship connection.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is often supplemented with addiction-combatting medications and other types of behavioral therapies. DBT is offered at most addiction treatment centers and is available to individuals seeking either residential-style or outpatient treatment.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but there are foundational differences between these two common therapies. CBT is largely influenced by philosophy, specifically, the Socratic method, which focuses on critical self-analyzation, whereas DBT draws from Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and focuses on acceptance and specific mindfulness. CBT enhances the client’s ability to recognize self-destructive thought patterns in order to redirect, alter and avoid while DBT teaches acceptance and emotional management so that the client doesn’t suffer from the pressure of trying to change thought patterns.

Asheville individual therapy rehabilitation.

Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Right For You?

With the volume of addiction treatment options, it is easy to be intimidated. If an individual is seeking treatment, it is important that they make an informed decision and consider all options so that they can enter the program best suited for them. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is offered at most addiction centers and psychiatric clinics. This talk therapy is mild in nature and, oftentimes, necessary to move forward with treatment. It is important to remember that the purpose of DBT is to nurture acceptance while adapting to healthy behavioral and emotional patterns. The most important facet of addiction treatment is that the individual feels safe and that the treatment is tailored to their needs. If you are unsure which treatment is right for you, call Asheville Recovery Center and speak with an addiction specialist today.

Similar Posts