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What is DBT?

DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a type of talk therapy that was originally developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to help individuals who were struggling with regulating overwhelming emotions. Her goal in designing DBT was to help people “get out of hell” and “find a life worth living” (Linehan, . Her theory was developed after finding tools that were effective in her own struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder. She realized that the current approaches to talk therapy were not enough, so she combined what she believed were the most useful skills from other talk therapies along with what she learned about meditation and mindfulness and created DBT (McKay et al., 2019).

The Focus?

DBT is focused on acceptance and change- or the dialectics– of an experience. Dialectics refers to finding an outcome of two opposing forces. In DBT, an individual finds a way to proceed when they may feel, think, or behave one way- but it isn’t helping them live a life that is meaningful. 

Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance skills are skills that can be used for facing overwhelming emotions in the moment. Overwhelming emotions can make a person feel out of control and often react in harmful ways to themselves or others due to the internal pain they are experiencing. Distress Tolerance skills can help a person to see alternative strategies for managing these emotions. 


A skill that helps bring us into the present moment so that we can take inventory of what’s happening internally- and intentionally choose how we want to proceed. Psychologist Jon-Kabat-Zinn, a researcher in the field of mindfulness, defined it as “…the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” (2019) Mindfulness is one of the most critical DBT skills as it allows a person to learn to be aware of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors while also giving themselves and others a compassionate response. 

Emotional Regulation

Emotion Regulation skills can help a person identify their emotions and find effective ways to cope and respond to them. Recognizing your emotions is the first step. These skills also help bring understanding to the relationship between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. For example, if I wake up and feel sluggish and depressed, but decide to go on a walk instead of stay in the bed, this may affect how I physically feel (more energy) which in turn will affect how I am feeling emotionally (more positive) and mentally (more focus for other tasks). 

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal Effectiveness skills include skills that help us have healthy relationships with those around us. They include social skills, assertiveness training, and listening skills. These skills help us learn to have boundaries in relationships, or the ability to “say no” while also asking for what we need or want. 

In summary, DBT can help individuals find the confidence and compassion needed to face their emotions and experiences while simultaneously learning how to have healthy relationships. Do you know someone who could benefit from DBT? 

At The Pursuit, a group of experienced therapists have come together to offer best-in-class counseling services. We prioritize clinical theory, non-judgmental approaches, and effective interventions, treatment plans, and coping skills. We have therapists who specialize in different areas and we strive to find the best match for your unique needs. Our services cater to individuals, families, and organizations, including adolescents in high school. We aim to connect you with the specialist who can best address your concerns. Our specialized counseling services aim to address the underlying emotional wounds that contribute to behaviors. We offer evidence-based counseling that is effective in working with many presenting problems. We provide a holistic approach to recovery, focusing on healing the past to create a healthier future. Are you ready to take the first step in your Pursuit towards a happier, healthier you? We invite you to book your free 20-minute consultation with one of our skilled therapists. Don’t wait; it’s time to invest in your well-being. Simply Book Now to start your Pursuit toward personal growth and positive change today or learn more about trauma therapy!


McKay, M., Wood, J., and Brantley, J. (2019). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook: Practical DBT exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. (2nd ed). New Harbinger Publications.

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