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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills

What is DBT?

DBT refers to dialectic behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic approach that can help you learn to deal with difficult emotions. DBT originated from the work of psychologist Marsha Linehan, who worked with people living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) or ongoing thoughts of suicide.

Today, it is still used to treat BPD and various other conditions, including:

  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Depression
  • Substance use disorders

In essence, DBT helps people build four main skills:

  • Mindfulness
  • Tolerance of distress
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Emotional regulations.

You can discover more about DBT skills online via 

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Read on to learn more about DBT, including how to compare with CBT and how the core skills taught can help you live a more happy and more balanced life.

How is DBT compared to CBT?

DBT is considered a subtype of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), but there are many overlaps between the two. Both involve talk therapy to help understand and manage your thoughts and behavior.

However, DBT slightly emphasizes emotional management and interpersonal relations. This is mostly because it was originally developed as a treatment for BPD, which is often characterized by dramatic swings in mood and behavior that can make relationships with other people difficult.

What skills does DBT help develop?

With DBT, you will learn to use four core skills, sometimes called modules, to overcome emotional pressure positively and productively. Layan refers to these four skills as "active ingredients". Mindfulness and distress tolerance skills help you work toward acceptance of your thoughts and behaviors. Emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness skills help you work toward changing your thoughts and behaviors.