Who benefits from DBT?

DBT was developed for individuals who struggle with emotion dysregulation. This means one is experiencing frequent, strong emotions that can lead to multiple problems, including impulsivity, self-harm, suicide ideation and/or attempts, interpersonal difficulties, anger and other emotional intensity, and problems with identity and sense of self. DBT is typically used with individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder who have multiple, chronic mental health difficulties related to emotion dysregulation; in other words, individuals who have several difficult problems and usually, several diagnoses. Comprehensive DBT has been extensively researched and is considered to have strong research support for the treatment of borderline personality disorder by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Recently, research is emerging that suggests that DBT can be used with additional populations. For example, DBT or DBT skills, alone or in conjunction with other treatments, is now being implemented for individuals with diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, attention deficit disorder, trichotillomania (hair pulling), and eating disorders. DBT is also used with adolescents, parents, and family members of individuals with emotion dysregulation, elderly adults with depression, individuals with developmental disabilities, and couples in high conflict. It has been implemented in forensic settings, inpatient settings, residential settings, emergency departments, as well as other types of mental health settings. DBT is also a reasonable option for individuals who have tried other evidence-based treatments and found they were not helpful, as long as emotion dysregulation is a core component of their difficulties. As more research is conducted, we are finding increasing evidence that DBT is helpful to a much broader range of individuals than initially expected.

Problems we treat:

Clients who seek DBT treatment have a variety of presentations. Our clients often experience problems with one or more of the following:

  • Suicide/non-suicidal self injury
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Other Axis II diagnoses/personality disorders
  • Impulsive behaviors, such as non-suicidal self injury, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, aggression, reckless driving, impulsive decisions
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Substance abuse/dependence
  • Eating disorders or related problems
  • Health/medical problems
  • Problems of over-control
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Other problems that develop related to emotion dysregulation

Typically, our clients have multiple, distressing problems that can cause and/or result from intense emotions. While many of these problems have their own evidence-based treatments (such as cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT), DBT is uniquely able to manage multiple problems, incorporating CBT interventions specifically designed for each problem. We use a wide range of evidence-based treatments within our DBT program, including Prolonged Exposure for PTSD, Behavioral Activation for depression, CBT for anxiety disorders, Exposure and Response Prevention for OCD, and many more.