Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that teaches individuals how to strike a balance between competing modes of thinking. “Embracing the dialectic” is about accepting oppositional thoughts without judgment and choosing to pursue the most useful of the two. 


For example, an alcoholic in recovery might be presented with a situation in which she is triggered to relapse. She may think, “I want to drink” while also thinking, “I want to stay sober.” By accepting both thoughts without judgment, she can regulate her emotional response to the situation and respond in favor of staying sober. She can move past any feelings of guilt or shame from wanting to drink alcohol and simply make the choice that serves her greater values and goals.


DBT was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, a psychologist who struggled through her own extreme bouts of mental illness at a young age and experienced a breakthrough. She began working with suicidal patients and those with personality disorders. The fundamental tenet of DBT is radical acceptance, which allows individuals to work through their intense emotional reactions by normalizing and neutralizing them instead of resisting them.

According to DBT, the path to adjusting to more useful behaviors means holding two concepts in tension: That you are accepted as you are but you must also embrace change.

The 4 Principles of DBT

The four key principles of DBT are as follows:

Mindfulness. Mindfulness in DBT is about observing your present moment and state of being, and reflecting on them without judgment. Becoming aware of your body, environment, feelings, and thoughts allows you to acknowledge them and alter them if necessary. 


Interpersonal effectiveness. This is about managing relationships, especially in states of stress or intense emotion. DBT teaches individuals how to state their needs, say no, and negotiate with another person’s interests without harming the relationship.

Distress tolerance. DBT shows you how to manage distress through the practice of radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is about embracing the current moment without necessarily approving it. It allows for distraction and healthy self-soothing techniques to deal with painful situations. 


Emotion regulation. DBT tends to be helpful to those who struggle to regulate their emotional state, especially in regard to personal relationships. This principle teaches individuals how to assess and label their emotions, identify obstacles, and choose an opposite action that connects with their greater goals.

Who DBT Helps

DBT has been very useful for those with borderline personality disorder as well as those who suffer from addiction and other mental health issues. Individuals with borderline personality disorder often suffer from extreme emotional reactions and have difficulty regulating their feelings in regard to certain situations. 


DBT has also been helpful for those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or behaviors, because it gives them permission to accept their self-destructive thinking while helping them pursue behavior change. Suicidal thinking and behavior can often be brought on by trauma or mental health conditions that may be treated through therapeutic intervention. 


As part of the treatment experience for those in recovery from addiction, DBT can help individuals resolve emotional distress and make positive changes. DBT can also help prevent relapse by helping individuals acknowledge and accept their unhealthy thinking while choosing the opposite action.

DBT at BeWell Network

At BeWell Network, we utilize DBT as part of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to treating addiction. We focus on resolving trauma and helping individuals thrive through the principles of mindfulness and radical acceptance. We equip each person with the skills they need to form and maintain a recovery lifestyle.


Our DBT-based Acceptance Group teaches people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others. This group cultivates an understanding of the structure and concepts of DBT to increase the use of healthy coping strategies.


We believe that groups like this allow individuals to receive support from peers and our treatment staff, who can affirm their progress toward positive changes. Treatment at our facilities includes groups as well as individual therapy sessions and experiential therapies. We customize treatment plans to the individual to provide each person with the best possible care for his or her long-term health and wellness.

Help for Addiction at BeWell Network

BeWell Network is a family of evidence-based treatment centers. We help individuals suffering from addiction find the path to recovery, offering customized treatment experiences for the restoration of the mind, body, and spirit. If you or a loved one is seeking help for addiction, please get in touch with our team today. We can assess your situation and recommend treatment options, verifying your benefits for free. We have a no-hassle billing process and are committed to providing treatment designed specially for you.

24/7 Admissions - Call Now