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What Does "DBT" Mean?

Therapy 101
4 min read

For anyone new to therapy, or who is curious about how therapists develop their approach to working with their clients, this article is for you!  Frame Therapist Rachel Brandwene explains what "DBT" means, an approach / "modality" you may find listed on a therapist's profile or mentioned in mental health focused articles. Read on to find out what this approach looks like in a therapy session. 

Q: What does DBT mean when you see it listed on a therapist’s profile?

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy; which aims to identify and shift negative thinking patterns. 

These long names (CBT, DBT) are called “modalities”, which translates to the approaches that the therapist takes with their clients. They include “interventions” which are known as different skills and practices for the client to learn.

With DBT, the process aims to identify and shift negative thinking patterns using mindfulness based skills, emotional regulation, and by really observing the present moment. So, it’s understanding how your behaviors are translating and impacting your relationships while also working on making that major shift to taking different approaches when we become triggered or activated. 

DBT was first created by Psychologist Marsha Linehan, which in the early stages was entirely focused on individuals with BPD and high suicide risk. Since the first edition, however, there have been a number of studies that show that DBT can be helpful for various populations, including those that struggle with anxiety and anxious attachment styles. 

Q: How is DBT different from other types of therapy?

What makes DBT different from other therapy structures, or modalities, is the incorporation of mindfulness based skills as well as emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. What I really love about DBT is its attention to the present moment and how to engage in that moment by understanding how you’re feeling internally in a way that helps you take a different approach in responding towards the relationships in your life.

Q: How do you know if DBT is right for you?

If you experience any kind of intense emotion and find it difficult to validate and soothe internally when triggered then DBT could be beneficial for you. DBT can help you really understand and identify what your needs are in the moment, and articulate and express them in a way that feels helpful rather than harmful.

Q: What’s an example of a DBT exercise that you might use? And what would that look like in session? 

The first exercise that I generally will begin with in my sessions is “Wise Mind”.  Your mind has three states, the emotional mind, the reasonable mind, and then the wise mind, which is a blending of the two. By understanding all three states of mind we can start to build awareness around core mindfulness skills that can help shape and build an individual's responses to triggering situations.

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About the author: Rachel Brandwene is a California based therapist specializing in anxiety, insecure attachment, and self esteem concerns. Click here to view Rachel's therapist profile to learn more about her approach, and schedule a free introductory call if you're interested in exploring therapy.

Follow her on instagram @heartcenteredtherapist


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