Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behaviour therapy. Its main goals are to teach us how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate emotions, and improve our relationships with others. DBT was originally designed to treat borderline personality disorder but has been adapted to treat other mental health conditions. DBT is particularly helpful if you are having difficulty with emotion regulation or self-destructive behaviours (e.g., self-harm, eating disorders, or substance abuse).

DBT incorporates a philosophical process called dialectics. Dialectics is based on the concept that everything is composed of opposites and that change occurs when there is a “dialogue” between opposing forces. The process makes three basic assumptions: All things are interconnected, change is constant and inevitable, and opposites can be integrated to form a closer approximation of the truth.

In DBT, patient and therapist work together to resolve the apparent contradiction between self-acceptance and change to bring about positive changes. Validation is a crucial part of DBT – the therapist validates that the patient’s actions “make sense” within the context of their personal experiences without necessarily agreeing that they are the best approach to solving a problem.

DBT strategies include:

  • Mindfulness and emotion regulation (accepting and tolerate your life circumstances, emotions, and yourself)
  • Analysing problems or destructive behaviour patterns and replacing them with more healthy and effective ones
  • Changing thoughts, beliefs, behaviours, and actions that are not effective or helpful
  • Interpersonal effectiveness (communicating effectively and working together)
  • Distress tolerance (distraction, improving the moment, self-soothing)