Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

In a nutshell

DBT is often used to help complex, difficult-to-treat mental health disorders. It encourages you to change your reactions to emotional triggers using behavioural techniques.

Recommended for treating

Problems relating to regulating emotion, including substance use, eating disordered behaviour (Anorexia and Bulimia), anger-related problems, borderline personality disorder, persistent binge eating disorder; personality disorder manifesting in self-harm behaviours. suicide attempts, depression, eating problems and feelings of hopelessness.

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines suggest DBT as the treatment of choice for women with BPD who want to reduce self-harming.

How it works

DBT was developed to treat intense emotional swings, impulsiveness, and suicidal behaviour. It aims to teach you:

  • Mindfulness

  • Emotion regulation

  • Interpersonal effectiveness

  • Distress tolerance

  • Self-management

DBT states that our problems develop from the interaction of biological factors (our physiological makeup) and environmental factors (what we've experienced), which together create difficulty managing emotions.

Biological factors: this approach says that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner in certain emotional situations (often those found in romantic, family and friend relationships) and that their arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s and take a long time to return to normal arousal levels.

Socially: this approach says that learning developed in childhood from an unsupportive environment means that you do not have any other way of coping with these emotions. Behaviour therapy means changing some behaviours that we have learned; such as changing ineffective coping techniques and learning new ones.

How to get it:

  • DBT is available on the NHS in some areas; speak to your GP or your regional mental health trust.

  • You can find some information on http://www.dbt.uk.net/