Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Kim Knickerbocker, MSW

Program Supervisor


Philosophy: Building a Life worth living


Goals: Teaching consumers how to decrease the life-threatening behaviors, therapy-interfering behaviors, and severe quality of life interfering behaviors they may engage in.



Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a treatment designed specifically for individuals with self-harm behaviors, such as self-cutting, suicide thoughts, urges to suicide, and suicide attempts. Many individuals with these behaviors meet criteria for a disorder called borderline personality (BPD). It is not unusual for individuals diagnosed with BPD to also struggle with other problems -- depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, eating disorders, or alcohol and drug problems. DBT is a modification of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is important to note that DBT is an "empirically-supported treatment." That means it has been researched in clinical trials, just as new medications should be researched to determine whether or not they work. DBT has been found to be an effective treatment for individuals diagnosed with BPD.

Individuals in DBT receive four main modes of treatment - individual therapy, skills group, peer support services and phone coaching. Individuals in DBT receive once weekly individual sessions. Individuals also must attend a two and a half hour weekly skills group for at least one year. The skills groups are classes during which individuals learn four sets of important skills - Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance.

Peer support services offer hope for recovery as the Peer Specialist shares his/her story of how they overcame many of same problems that individuals currently face in their life. Individuals are also asked to call for skills coaching prior to hurting themselves. The on-call worker then walks them through alternatives to self-harm or suicidal behaviors.