Skip to main content

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy that is based on principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but places greater emphasis on the psychosocial aspect of treatment. Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed DBT in the late 1980s as a means to help better treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT combines standard CBT techniques for emotional regulation and reality testing with concepts derived from Buddhist meditative practice such as awareness, mindfulness, and attentiveness to current situations and emotional experiences to encourage acceptance. DBT is comprised of different components including weekly group therapy, also known as DBT skills group sessions, weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. One-on-one therapy sessions are intended to provide personalized support for individuals with processing experiences, addressing issues, navigating challenges, and identifying successes that occurred in the previous week. Each component of the DBT process, including group therapy, is integral to its success. The purpose of DBT, according to Psychology Today is to teach individuals applicable skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflicts in relationships.

DBT Group Skills Therapy

The DBT skills group session make up an imperative component to the overall DBT program. Research has found that “DBT skills training group is effective in reducing symptoms for both adults with borderline personality disorder and adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder.” DBT group therapy sessions are focused on enhancing the capabilities of each participant by teaching behavioral skills related to the four modules that make up the pillars of DBT. They include the following, provided by the Linehan Institute:

  1. Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and wholly present in the current moment
  2. Distress Tolerance: learning tools and techniques to effectively tolerate pain that may arise from difficult situations, instead of attempting to avoid and/ or change it
  3. Interpersonal Effectiveness: learning assertive communication methods that enable an individual to engage with others in a way that maintains self-respect and simultaneously strengthens relationships
  4. Emotion Regulation: explores strategies that aid in changing unwanted emotions, by way of managing and/ or shifting the intense emotions that may be causing problems in one’s life

In DBT skills group therapy sessions the clinician running the session will follow the lessons provided in the DBT curriculum, teach the skills, and facilitate activities to allow the participants to practice implementing the newly learned DBT skills. These group sessions offer participants an emotionally safe environment to begin to implement the DBT skills alongside others working on similar issues. Group members are encouraged to share their experiences and provide mutual support, which can be invaluable to the therapeutic process. 


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. 

Back to top