Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a modified form of cognitive behavior therapy that was developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan to improve the treatment of borderline personality disorder. Linehan observed that adversarial relationships and caregiver fatigue affect engagement and progress in therapy. Borrowing heavily from Buddhist meditative practices, DBT leverages validation and teaches non-judgment to help clients work through strong emotions and distorted perspectives.
DBT strives to have the patient view the therapist as an ally rather than an adversary in the treatment of psychological issues. Accordingly, the therapist aims to accept and validate the client’s feelings at any given time, while, nonetheless, informing the client that some feelings and behaviors are maladaptive, and showing them better alternatives.
Linehan developed curriculum that distills Buddhist practices into non-religious mindfulness exercises that build capacity within the individual to live more intentionally. DBT offers a series of accessible skill sets designed to help clients practice different grounding techniques. Each addresses a maladaptive thought pattern that can lead to reactionary mood swings and destructive behaviors. More importantly, each skill offers the client something/somewhere else to direct their focus.