DBT is a form of Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy and it is a way of treating certain mental disorders through psychological methods, rather than relying on medical solutions. It is a talking-based approach to treatment, with the goal of helping patients to understand why they think and feel and act the way they do, and how their actions are directly affected by their emotions. 

In the 1980s, psychologist Marsha M. Linehan came up with this method of treatment in order to understand her own thoughts and actions. After years of suicidal ideation and depression, she came to accept that she has a brain that thinks this way. This concept of radical acceptance was one of the foundations for the DBT program. 

The DBT course spans approximately one year. Students examine four distinct modules in order to learn behavioral skills. Two of the modules are focused on acceptance, and two are focused on change. 


Mindfulness is a hot buzzword these days, but it has actually been around for a long time. Buddhist monks have used it for thousands of years. It is the idea of living in the present moment in a non-judgemental way. The idea is not to ruminate on the past or to forecast into the unknown future. Just stay present in the now. 

Distress tolerance is meant to be a short-term aid for people when they reach emotional dysregulation. People in the DBT program often have trouble accessing their prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with decision-making skills and reasoning. In cases of high emotional situations, some people get stuck in an Amygdala loop, meaning they can only focus repeatedly on the thing that is upsetting to them. Someone in an enhanced emotional state is incapable of practicing any other DBT skills until they first get centered and a little more balanced. Distress tolerance skills are meant to be quick skills that can bring a person back down to baseline quickly.


Understanding why you do the things you do and why you feel certain emotions is only part of the DBT program. There are also changes that need to take place in order to have meaningful relationships, which is one of the issues that plague DBT students. Emotion regulation skills are meant to be practiced at a time when you are at peace, the way a fireman trains when there is no fire so that he can be prepared for when the time comes to use his skills. Interpersonal effectiveness is the other module, which helps students learn how to interact with others in a meaningful way.