What Does DBT Stand For in Mental Health? (2023)

DBT stands for dialectical behavior therapy, which was developed in the 1980s to help people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Today, it's one of the most effective treatments for BPD.

It combines cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with a biosocial theory and emphasizes emotion regulation. It also incorporates mindfulness and acceptance-oriented interventions.

Dialectical behavior therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a behavioral treatment that has been proven effective in treating mental health conditions. It helps people who struggle with issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorder, borderline personality disorder and self-harming behaviors.

During DBT sessions, your therapist will teach you skills that help you manage your emotions and relationships more effectively. These include mindfulness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation.

DBT also teaches you strategies to change destructive thoughts and behavior patterns. It’s a complex approach, so you’ll need to commit to regular therapy sessions and do homework assignments.

You’ll meet with your therapist at least weekly for about an hour. You may also participate in group therapy or phone counseling during this time. Your therapist will work with you on a personalized plan for your sessions and your daily life.


Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment, focusing on your breath and the sensations in your body, rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. This can reduce stress, improve sleep and alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort, among other benefits.

Psychotherapists are incorporating mindfulness into therapy sessions to help clients manage their emotions and thought patterns, particularly during times of distress. Research shows that it may improve mood, decrease anxiety, and increase self-compassion.

Another benefit of practicing mindfulness is that it can change the shape of your brain, a process known as neuroplasticity. This means that it changes the size of gray matter in your brain and thickens cortical thickness, which helps with learning and memory.

Mindfulness meditation also increases your emotional intelligence, which is the ability to regulate your emotions and respond effectively to them. It can be especially helpful for those who have a condition like eczema, which is linked to stress and can be treated with mindfulness techniques.

Distress tolerance

Distress tolerance is the ability to tolerate and regulate negative emotions. It can help a person feel better about their current situation and avoid engaging in unhealthy behaviors, such as binge eating, substance use, or self-injury.

When people have low distress tolerance, it’s difficult to handle a wide variety of emotional situations. Consequently, they are at greater risk for developing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety disorder.

Tolerating distress is the first step in building a strong stress-coping skill set. It is often used as part of dialectical behavior therapy, which helps individuals regulate their thoughts and feelings and reduce conflict in their interpersonal relationships.

Clients learn and practice a range of distress tolerance skills, including regulating their mood, thinking about the pros and cons of tolerating a stressful situation, and practicing a technique called radical acceptance. This approach allows patients to confront the reality of their pain and slowly change their response to it over time.

Emotion regulation

Emotion regulation refers to the ability to respond to emotions in a healthy way, rather than letting them overwhelm you or ruin your day. This skill can be especially beneficial for adults who struggle with anxiety or depression.

DBT is an emotion-focused form of therapy originally designed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). It has been shown to help reduce suicide attempts and other dysfunctional behaviors by teaching patients behavioral skills that increase their resilience to emotional distress.

During DBT, patients learn to accept and change their feelings and reactions through a variety of techniques, including self-monitoring, problem-solving, and cognitive restructuring. DBT is usually conducted in individual therapy with a trained therapist.

DBT also includes group therapy where patients learn and practice behavioral skills, such as mindfulness and interpersonal effectiveness. Patients may also receive phone coaching between sessions, which gives them a chance to discuss their emotions with a therapist who can provide guidance on how to best handle difficult situations.

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Author: Domingo Moore

Last Updated: 05/03/2023

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