What are the components of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and how effective is DBT skills training as stand-alone treatment?

There are 3 components of comprehensive Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for the client:

  1. Skills training group: focuses on teaching behavioral skills and includes teaching skill building and practice. Groups typically meet weekly for a 24 week program.
  2. Individual therapy: focuses on enhancing motivation and applying skills to unique challenges and life events. Individual therapy typically runs concurrently with skills training group.
  3. Phone coaching: focuses on how to use skills to cope with difficult situations in the moment. Coaching is available at any time.

For the DBT therapists, there are therapist consultation teams which provide professional support. The consultation teams are designed to help therapists stay motivated and informed.

Efficacy of Stand-Alone Skill Building

Due to the comprehensive nature of DBT, the skills training in individual therapy is frequently the only component of DBT that clients receive. Preliminary evidence supports that the use of DBT skills training only is effective as a method in addressing a range of behaviors including emotional regulation issues. Comprehensive DBT has strong evidential support that confirms it as a treatment for people with borderline personality disorder including addressing self-destructive behaviors and reducing suicide attempts among individuals with borderline personality disorder and a history of suicidal behaviors.

For more information on the components of DBT, visit the Behavioral Research & Clinics at the University of Washington.

For research around the efficacy of stand alone skill building, view these articles:

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