Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a treatment developed by Marsha M. Linehan to treat patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Based on behavioral therapy, DBT combines some of its techniques with principles of acceptance of reality, derived from Zen, and dialectic philosophy. There are five core components of DBT: individual treatment, skills training group, telephone coaching, additional treatment measures (e.g. pharmacotherapy), and consultation team for therapists. To date, DBT is the only evidence-based treatment for this population (Linehan, 1993; 2015).

DBT was developed during the late 1980s as a treatment for patients with recurrent suicidal behavior who also met criteria for the BPD diagnosis. DBT evolves from behavioral therapy and adapts the treatment to the complexity of the disorder by incorporating and balancing acceptance with change. DBT is also a skills-oriented treatment; patients are encouraged to learn new behavioral skills and generalize them to all relevant contexts. In addition, the aim of the consultation team is to prevent therapist´s burnout and maintain adherence to DBT.

Due to its multi-component, comprehensive, and flexible approach, DBT has been adapted to different age ranges, diagnosis categories, and mental health settings. There is evidence supporting the efficacy of DBT for the treatment of other disorders related to emotional dysregulation and problem behaviors such as self-injury, suicidal ideation, binge eating, depression and substance abuse (Haynos, Fruzzetti, Anderson, Briggs & Walenta, 2015). The efficacy of DBT in treating adolescents with suicidal behaviors has also been demonstrated (Pistorello, Fruzzetti, MacLane, Gallop & Iverson, 2012).


Marsha M. Linehan