Definition of Dialectical behavioral therapy

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Dialectical behavioral therapy: A mode of treatment designed for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), particularly those with suicidal behavior. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) aims to help people with BPD to validate their emotions and behaviors, examine those behaviors and emotions that have a negative impact on their lives, and make a conscious effort to bring about positive changes. In validation the therapist helps the patient see that their behavior and responses are understandable in relation to their current life situation. In BPD however these behaviors and responses often create a great deal of stress, suffering, and instability in the patient's life. With training in problem solving the patient works on building social and personal skills to deal effectively with the problems in life. Studies have indicated that people with BPD who have had DBT make fewer suicide attempts and enter the hospital less often.

DBT may have applications outside BPD. It is being tested as a therapy for other kinds of patients such as suicidal adolescents, older adults with depression, and women with eating disorders. DBT was pioneered by Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington.


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