What is Dialectic Behavioral Therapy?

Developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. at the University of Washington in the 1970’s, this model comes from a behavioral perspective. Linehan took her knowledge of CBT and added the idea of balancing acceptance with change. She encouraged therapists to use validation strategies with change strategies in an effort to help clients to shift and begin to trust their own judgment. She also introduced the idea of mindfulness from eastern philosophy encouraging clients to use meditation and mindfulness to stay present. The goal is to get closer to “wise mind” that place where you feel grounded or know what to do. To be adherent to the model treatment requires individual therapy, weekly skills training in a group and phone coaching. Dr. Linehan worked with highly suicidal borderline personality diagnosed (BPD) patients in a hospital setting. So she was looking for ways to treat intense mood swings, impulsiveness and confusion about self. This is also considered an evidence based practice model as much scientific research has been done with the specific population and results suggest this is a superior treatment for BPD. A dialectic behavioral therapist seeks to synthesize ideas and help the client see how two ideas can both be true (dialectics); while also accepting and validating what is, with what can change, which increases psychological flexibility.  In the last 15 years, dialectic behavioral therapy has gained popularity and is used in outpatient mental health settings for clients dealing with intense emotions, trauma, anxiety and depression.

(see resources page for more in-depth descriptions and websites)


Happiness is not something you postpone for the future;

It is something you design for the present.


–Jim Rohn

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