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What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Do you or your teen have difficulty managing thoughts, emotions and behaviors? Have you found yourself questioning how to cope with and work through these issues on a daily or weekly basis? DBT is a therapy that has been structured to help clients gain insight and skills to work through their negative thought processes, fluctuating emotions, and unhealthy behaviors. Although DBT was originally created by Marsha Linehan in the 1990’s for adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, this therapy has been found affective for a broad range of issues including: emotional regulation, self-harming behaviors, suicide attempts, dichotomous thinking, impulsive behaviors, labile moods and unstable interpersonal relationships. Below are some brief descriptions of the skills used in DBT to help clients move towards a healthy and fulfilled life.

1. Mindfulness: This is a skill that has become increasingly well known in our society today. Practicing mindfulness is a way to become aware of what is going on within yourself and moving from a negative energy to peace and calmness. Some important skills to use during mindful activities include observing as many details as possible, describing those details either out loud, in a journal, or in your own mind, and fully engaging and participating in the activity.

2. Distress Tolerance: During times of distress it is essential to find ways to cope with high emotions in order to prevent negative behaviors. DBT’s distress tolerance provides unique skills to help clients distract themselves and calm down, accept the reality of the situation, and move forward by improving the in the moment.

3. Emotional Regulation: People seeking DBT typically have difficulty dealing with their emotional responses to any given situation. Emotional regulation is a DBT skillset that is designed to reduce vulnerability by helping people to understand and respond to their emotions more appropriately. This deeper emotional understanding leads to a more positive experience during the stress that life brings.

4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: The final module in DBT is used to help clients build strong and lasting relationships, balance priorities, gain self-respect, and maintain the skills learned in DBT.

While using these techniques, Linehan discovered that DBT skills are most effective when paired with unconditional validation. By balancing validation with problem solving, DBT has been shown to help clients make deep and lasting changes in their life. Here at Art It Out, we have formed a DBT-informed group for high schoolers as well as individual appointments for teens and adults. For more information about how DBT may be able to help you or a loved one, feel free to contact our office by phone at 770-726-9589 or email at

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