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The word depression is often used as a synonym for sadness. However, when used in a clinical setting, depression carries a much different meaning. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that depression is “characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities,” resulting in significant impairment in one’s daily life. All people will experience bouts of extreme sadness, and even despair at some point in their lives. For most, these feelings will naturally dissipate in time and/ or with a change of circumstance. Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and is recognized as a serious mood disorder. An individual who suffers from clinical depression has a chemical imbalance in his or her brain, resulting in an inability to return to an emotional equilibrium as quickly as others when experiencing an emotional low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) depression affects nearly ten percent of the general population in America.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in the late 1980s. It was initially intended to help better treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that prioritizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment. Dialectical behavior therapy is made up of three distinct therapeutic settings, which include: weekly group DBT skills sessions, weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. The DBT group skills sessions focus on different modules in the following four areas:

  • Core mindfulness: focusing skills
  • Distress tolerance: crisis survival skills
  • Emotion regulation: de-escalation skills
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: relationship/ people skills

Although DBT was originally developed to treat individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, evidence has shown it to be a successful treatment method for individuals diagnosed with other mental health ailments, including depression.

Is DBT Effective?

There are a variety of therapeutic modalities used to treat depression. Each person is unique and will require a customized treatment plan that is comprised of any single method or combination of therapeutic approaches. While there is a plethora of treatment options available for an individual diagnosed with depression, there is no universal treatment plan or single type of therapy that is effective for everyone. There are, however, some psychotherapeutic modalities that are more commonly incorporated into the treatment plan for an individual with depression than others, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. Specifically, DBT offers both the ability to provide customized therapeutic support through the individual therapy sessions, as well as peer support though the DBT skills group sessions. Medication can also be an effective component to one’s treatment plan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the two medications, which are Lexapro (generically: escitalopram) and Prozac (generically: fluoxetine) for the use of treating depression. Depending on one’s needs integrating a combination of both psychotherapy and medication into one’s treatment plan can yield the most successful long-term results.


The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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