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How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Works

The dialectic behavior (DBT) therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. The main objective is to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to deal with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationship with others. DBT was originally intended to treat borderline personality disorders (BPD), but it has been adapted to treat other mental health conditions.

DBT can help people who experience difficulties with emotional regulations or show off self-destructive behavior (eating disorders and substance disorders). DBT is sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). DBT is also efefctive in treating patients with severe depression. You can find out more about DBT for depression through

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DBT was developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linhan and colleagues when they found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) did not work for patients with BPD. Hansel Layan and his team added techniques and developed care to meet the unique needs of these patients.

DBT combines philosophical processes 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. In more academic terms, dialectics can be summarized as a thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The process makes three basic assumptions:

  • All things are interconnected.
  • Change is constant and inevitable.
  • Opposites can be integrated to form a closer approximation of the truth.

In DBT, a patient and therapist works to resolve clear contradictions between self-acceptance and change to bring about positive changes in the patient.

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