DBT Informed Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of talk therapy originally developed to treat people dealing with severe issues like chronic suicidality, difficulty regulating emotions, or disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). DBT is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that has over time become used for additional reasons such as: substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, depression, and in some cases used in combination with other treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

At the heart of DBT is the goal to create a worthwhile life. This is achieved through balancing: 1) acceptance of the person as they are right now, and 2) improvement of harmful behaviors. Over time, research has shown that DBT is effective at reducing the severity of suicidal behavior, self-harm, and psychiatric hospitalizations.

Full Protocol DBT vs. DBT-Informed Therapy

Full protocol DBT is a comprehensive approach while DBT-informed therapy incorporates elements of DBT into the treatment process.

For treatment with DBT to be considered full protocol, it needs to include the four primary modes of treatment: individual therapy, skills groups, phone coaching, and therapist consultation teams. Additionally, family work may be added to help the family understand new ways of interacting with each other and structuring the environment.

DBT-informed therapy can pick and choose which elements to include in treatment on a case-by-case basis to meet individual needs. This might look like individual therapy that incorporates skills training and some supportive work a family.

For people with the most severe symptoms, full protocol DBT is often the most effective approach. This approach has been found to have a low level of treatment dropout and have been effective where other forms of treatment haven’t been. People who are not severely ill or suicidal may benefit from the more flexible and personalized DBT-informed approach.

Full protocol DBT can take from six months to a year to achieve lasting results, where DBT-Informed therapy can lend itself  to a more brief treatment period.

DBT Skills

A cornerstone of DBT is skills training. DBT skills are broken down into four different modules:

  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Emotional regulation
  • Distress tolerance

Learning new behavioral skills takes time and practice. The benefits of DBT skills can be dramatic and include helping people: become less reactive, experience less intensity of emotions, cope with stressful situations, and have more satisfying and healthy personal relationships. As skills are developed, people move through specific stages defined by the severity of behaviors:

  • Stage 1: moving from being out of control to achieving behavioral control
  • Stage 2: moving toward experiencing emotions fully
  • Stage 3: becoming able to solve ordinary life problems
  • Stage 4: moving toward completeness

DBT: A practical approach

Ultimately, DBT is a practical and effective approach. Many different people can benefit from learning DBT skills. In our practice, we use a DBT-Informed approach and incorporate it into treatment for anxiety, depression, stress, personal relationships, and trauma. When clinically appropriate, we refer clients to either DBT skills groups or for full-protocol DBT.

If you would like more information or know someone who could benefit from a DBT-Informed therapy approach, please contact us.

4411 Suwanee Dam Road, Suite 450
Suwanee, GA 30024


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