What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a compassionate type of behavioral therapy that is intended to help people move towards having a life that feels more meaningful and worth living. It is an evidence based treatment that has proved effective for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, addictive disorders and impulse control disorders. By combining standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation with the concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance and mindfulness, the skills taught by DBT strengthen a person’s ability to handle their emotions without losing control or engaging in destructive behavior.

Combining several therapeutic approaches, DBT was originally designed for severe mental illness (people engaging in self harm or with chronic suicidal thoughts). Research is finding that DBT can be extremely effective in less severe areas, such as anxiety, mild depression, relationship conflict – in essence: wherever there is a need to regulate emotions. Once learned, these skills can be applied in our everyday lives, including stress related to work, family relationships, and medical conditions. DBT was designed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., beginning in the 1970s. Dr. Linehan pulled from effective treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, assertiveness training, validation strategies, and Buddhist mindfulness meditations. Dr. Linehan then went on to study DBT in clinical trials, showing that DBT is, in fact, extremely effective in the treatment of patients with chronic suicidal thoughts. Other clinicians have furthered her research into other areas.


Why DBT?

DBT is an evidenced based modality which has been proven effective in helping people:

  • Understand and manage overwhelming emotions
  • Learn more about themselves and how they think
  • Reduce emotional instability and impulsive behaviors
  • Learn more effective ways of coping with stress
  • Improve relationships and identify effective relationships in their life

Who is DBT for?

DBT teaches skills useful to pretty much everyone. These include skills like learning to accurately recognize emotions in you and others, tolerating difficult emotions, and engaging with others effectively. Peachtree DBT does not require clients have a mental health diagnosis to enroll in DBT; however, we do require you to be engaged in individual therapy on a weekly basis either with one of our intensively trained clinicians or with another therapist in the community. Those clients enrolled in the Family Skills Class do not have to be enrolled in individual therapy.

How is DBT different than standard therapy?

When most people think of therapy, they think of interpersonal therapy, where you talk about your feelings and your past. While DBT employs much of the change process involved in standard Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), the use of validation/acceptance is added. DBT, like most behavioral therapies, meets you where you are in the current moment; focusing on helping you change ineffective ways of coping by learning new, skillful ways to deal with situations. By validating the client, the therapist is able to reinforce the dialectic: the idea that seemingly opposites can coexist and be synthesized. This means weighing out various points of view in any situation by constantly balancing the ideals of acceptance and change, and assists in creating a life worth living for the client By the teaching of skills, DBT relies on specific goals that can realistically be attained. At times DBT is referred to as a “doing” therapy rather than a “talking” therapy. While DBT does ultimately focus on past experiences the first six months to year of treatment are spent ensuring the client is effective in their current daily life. Diary cards are kept to maintain progress and obtain an overview of the client’s week. Additionally, therapists are available for “coaching calls” between sessions so skills can be reinforced in the moment. Finally, all Peachtree DBT therapists are required to participate in a weekly treatment team to assist one another in providing effective and compassionate treatment for all clients.

We recommend the “What is DBT?” page on Behavioral Tech’s website for further reading into the development of and research into Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Behavioral Tech was founded by and collaborates with Dr. Linehan.

What Does Dialectical Mean?

What does “Dialectical” mean?

“… the process of thought by which apparent contradictions are seen to be part of a higher truth.” — The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, 2009

“ The process or art of reasoning through discussion of conflicting ideas.” — The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Home and Office Edition, 1998

The word “dialectical” describes the notion that two opposing ideas can be true at the same time. In DBT, there is always more than one way to think about a situation, and all people have something unique and different to offer. A life worth living has both positive and negative aspects (happiness, sadness, anger) and all of these aspects are necessary and valuable. It is sometimes hard to accept ourselves and our actions while simultaneously recognizing the need for change. Dialectics allows for a balance between acceptance and change, both of which are necessary for establishing a fulfilling life.

Do you only do DBT?

No! While all of our therapists are intensively trained in DBT they do practice from various modalities dependent on client needs and treatment goals (Cognitive Behavioral, Solution Focused, Humanistic, etc.). Several of our clinicians are also trained in EMDR, Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Mentalisation Based Therapy. We encourage you to look through our therapists’ bios to find the therapist which you feel is the best suited fit. Click here to explore our other services!

What is mindfulness?

The concept of mindfulness goes as far back as Guatama Buddha’s teachings, from more than 2,500 years ago. In more recent years, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. has popularized mindfulness in the United States through his research on mindfulness in chronic medical illnesses. Mindfulness practice is a nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is. Paying attention to the state of paying attention. Research has shown practicing mindfulness regularly decreased the body’s response to stress. Click here to learn more about DBT skills!

When is the next skills class module? How do I register?

Check out our skills class page for the most up to date information on skills class offerings and schedules. 

How is skills class different than group therapy?

DBT skills class is based on teaching skills relating to the four modules of DBT (mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness). The class is taught in a lecture format. In contrast, group therapy is based on sharing thoughts and feelings, frequently referred to as a “process group,” since you are processing your emotions. Although participants share some limited personal information, DBT skills group is not a process group. DBT skills class can sometimes bring up strong emotions surrounding the client and their experiences and although these emotions and experiences are valid and important, the time in DBT class is focused on learning new skills. Clients are encouraged to process these experiences and emotions with their individual therapists.

How long are classes?

Classes meet once a week for 90 minutes. Each module consists of nine classes. At Peachtree DBT we offer three modules, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Mindfulness is taught the first two weeks of every module and practiced during each class.

What is a diary card?

A diary card is a tool used in DBT for the client and therapist to gain an overview of the client’s week. Diary cards assist the client in learning about themselves, their emotions, urges, behaviors, and triggers that affect them.

Are there any books you recommend reading before attending classes?

We often get asked, “Are there good resources to read on DBT before starting therapy?” Yes! Here are a few of our favorites:

Dr. Linehan’s books can be found on her website, Behavioral Tech. She has a section of books for clients and their family and friends.

McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J. (2007) The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Distress Tolerance. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook

Marra, T. (2004) Depressed and Anxious: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook for Overcoming Depression & Anxiety. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications
Depressed & Anxious

We are currently offering individual sessions in-person and via telehealth. All of our group offerings are virtual, with the exception of our adolescent IOP, which has rigorous policies and procedures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
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