Founder, Description, Philosophy

Dialectical behaviour therapy was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD) however it has now been adapted to treat anyone who wants to improve their emotion regulation, tolerate distress and negative emotions, be more mindful in the present and interact with others more effectively. This modality was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1980’s who worked with people diagnosed with BPD and were having great difficulty in their relationships with others (friends, partners, family members). The approach incorporates skills training and distress tolerance tools to allow clients to better manage their own distress.

People who typically benefit from dialectical behaviour therapy are those who meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder, people who are at risk for suicide, people who experience depression, anxiety, those who suffer from eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and anyone who has a difficult time managing their negative emotions. The approach tackles all-or-nothing thinking (i.e., black-and-white thinking) and promotes a balance between opposing perspectives.

What does this approach look like in practice? What are some types of interventions?

Dialectical behaviour therapy is most often used with individuals but can also be used for group skills training sessions. With DBT, the client will learn distress tolerance skills to use in their daily life to better manage difficult emotions.  With the therapist, clients practice a variety of techniques and strategies including mindfulness (being in the present moment and acknowledging thoughts and feelings without having to control them), distress tolerance (learning how to cope with a crisis and dealing with the emotions that are triggered) , interpersonal effectiveness (asking for what one needs from others and setting boundaries in relationships)  and emotional regulation (practicing strategies for managing emotions so they don’t control the client’s thoughts and behaviours).



Linehan, M., Wilks, C. (2015). The course and evolution of dialectical behavior therapy, American journal of psychotherapy, 69, 91-239.