Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a therapy designed to help people change patterns of behavior that are not effective, such as self-harm, suicidal thinking and substance abuse. This approach works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings and behaviors that lead to the undesired behavior. DBT assumes that people are doing the best that they can, but either are lacking the skills or are influenced by positive or negative reinforcement that interfere with one’s functioning.
DBT is a form of psychotherapy that was originally developed by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington, to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and chronically suicidal individuals. Although, research on its effectiveness in treating other conditions has been extremely limited, DBT is now used in a variety of psychological treatments including treatment for traumatic brain injuries (TBI), eating disorders, and mood disorders. Scant research indicates that DBT might have some effect on patients who present varied symptoms and behaviors associated with spectrum mood disorders, including self-injury. Recent work also suggests its effectiveness with sexual abuse survivors and chemical dependency.
DBT combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice. DBT may be the first therapy that has been experimentally demonstrated to be generally effective in treating BPD. The first randomized clinical trial of DBT showed reduced rates of suicidal gestures, psychiatric hospitalizations and treatment drop-out when compared to treatment as usual. A meta-analysis found that DBT reached moderate effects.