How Do I Find DBT Therapy?

Updated October 7, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Sometimes the thoughts and feelings you have to require outside help. There are some versions of therapy that directly address people who struggle with behavioral issues. This kind of therapy (DBT), often offered through online therapy, can provide you with support and guidance to learn coping mechanisms and ways to find happiness despite a personality disorder or other mental health challenges. Learn more in this article about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy(DBT).

Find Licensed Mental Health Professionals To Help

What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?

Conflict and complex emotions are hard for all people, but some individuals are more susceptible to these issues and are turning to the  DBT  approach for help. Dialectical behavior therapy is an intensive therapy for people who have high emotional responses that inhibit normal functions. DBT helps them accept and control their intense emotions as it is in the moment by increasing their capacity for self-compassion. To further break it down, dialectic is analytical reasoning that pursues knowledge and truth in conflicts between two or more people, thus promoting interpersonal effectiveness through improved behavioral skills and work.

Marsha Linehan

Dialectical behavior therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps teach people skills they can use in a variety of situations. This strategy and skills help make their lives manageable and happy while helping to improve relationships by giving them the resources they need to practice emotional management. Originally, it was used for borderline personality disorder (BPD) and developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan PhD. It is now widely used by many individual therapists, counselors, clinicians, and psychologists for different types of emotional and mental disorders. It can be used for almost any condition or diagnosis including addiction and eating disorders.

The Key Elements Of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

There are four key elements of Dialectical behaviour therapy which are used to manage painful emotions and help decrease relationship conflicts. The elements covered in DBT programs include:

  • Interpersonal effectiveness, which is a technique that helps people communicate with others assertively and maintain self-respect. This will also build a stronger relationship with others.
  • Emotional regulation is a strategy that helps individual control and changes their intense emotions, which creates fewer problems in their lives.
  • Distress tolerance is a way to increase the acceptance and tolerance of negative emotions instead of trying to escape or ignore them.
  • Mindfulness is a common treatment that is focused on being present in the moment and being able to accept emotions without judgment.

Who Can DBT Help?

Managing each one of your difficult emotions and regulating the other mental health conditions that cause them are essential factors in the success of dialectical behavior therapy DBT. This form can help people who have mental health issues, emotional and behavioral illnesses, behavioral conditions, and an anxiety disorder. Some of these conditions include:

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Internet or gaming addiction
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression disorders
  • Anorexia and bulimia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Panic disorders
  • Social anxiety
  • Hyperactivity disorder
  • Defiant behavior
  • Some forms of autism

DBT treatment can also be used for learning disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), short-term and long-term memory issues, executive functioning problems, non-verbal learning disorder (NLD), language processing disorder, and dyslexia. It can be useful in children as young as toddler age, teens, all the way to the elderly.

Acceptance Rather Than Abstinence

Rather than teaching you to avoid or eliminate challenges, DBT helps you cope with challenges by giving you the strength to control your emotions. Certain feelings and emotions are unavoidable and it may be best to deal with them rather than trying to make them go away. Accepting that you will have strong emotions and feelings can empower you to work through them and establish better thought and emotional patterns.

According to clinical psychology professional Dr. Linehan, learning the skills to manage these feelings can change your life dramatically, making it possible for you to enjoy your relationships that have formerly been defined by conflict. DBT is more than a problem treatment; it is a tool that helps an individual learn skills to use their emotions and feelings in a way that is more productive and positive.

Being Your Therapist

In some ways, DBT skills teach patients to be their therapists. People who undergo this learn to identify and cope with issues as they arise. Just like a medical doctor, your psychologist, therapist or counselor dedicates themselves to making you care for your needs and feel better. If they can teach you radical acceptance of yourself, this makes their job easier, more rewarding, and fulfilling.

How Does DBT Work?

DBT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or psychotherapy, that teaches you to appreciate your emotions and feelings with acceptance. People with certain kinds of mental health issues may have hardship when encountering complex emotions or conflict in relationships, leading to negative effects in these areas. This will help you embrace the range of feelings and learn how to use them positively and productively. This way you learn how your emotions and feelings affect your behavior and the best way to cope with all the issues going on inside of you.

How Is DBT Performed?

A DBT individual therapy session usually consists of several individual therapy sessions as well as group sessions with other group and in some cases, couples or relationship sessions. A behavioral tech therapist will help you learn the skills and tools to address the issues or symptoms that are causing you to have emotional reactions through their services. You will receive motivation and encouragement to use specially adapted DBT skills in your day-to-day life, addressing any obstacles that may arise. DBT sessions can give you the strategies and techniques to make positive change. Sessions will teach you how to balance the opposing forces in your life and find healthy ways to manage your symptoms. The heart of DBT is learning how to accept what you cannot change while maintaining self respect, which benefits both you and your family.

How Can I Find A DBT Therapist?

Find Licensed Mental Health Professionals To Help

Because DBT is a form of CBT, many therapists are trained in this type of service. It is best to find someone who specializes in this field, and, if you're looking for in-person treatment, is close to your location. One way to do this is by talking to your primary care physician about "therapy near me" for individuals they might know personally. If you already have a therapist, you may ask them to refer you to someone who deals with DBT treatment. Look for a therapist who has been certified and trained in DBT techniques for adults, as well as accepts your insurance. As you continue to work through your ability to regulate emotions in DBT therapy, you may find a systematic review to be helpful; a systematic review assessing your progress and concerns in therapy can indicate the effectiveness of your personal treatment. 

Linehan Board of Certification

The Linehan Board of Certification provides a public online tool to help identify providers who are trained in and offer DBT individual therapy supported by evidence-based research. Those who are listed with the Linehan Board of Certification are vetted and proven to have the requisite skills and knowledge to deliver DBT and adhere to the model that was devised by Dr. Linehan and her colleagues. Dr. Linehan originally developed the dialectical philosophy in the 1990s, in part, to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD) and clients who have a higher risk of suicidal tendencies or substance abuse. Studies, including this one from 2006, have used large sets to show DBT's effectiveness. The most important aspects of her treatment plan  include:

  • Enhancing your capability to increase skilled behavior
  • Improving and maintaining your motivation to induce a state of change
  • Ensuring the generalization of change through treatment
  • Enhancing the motivation of therapists to deliver the best treatment
  • Assisting you in changing or restructuring your environment to support and maintain progress towards goals, with or without medication

Searching for Availability

When you are searching for a specific type of therapist, it can be difficult to find what you need by just talking to your doctor, though. Therapists in the United States, for example, may have a certain "therapy age" that they require to treat patients, or they may not have the ability to prescribe medications necessary to help with your treatment. The availability of DBT therapists in certain areas can be lacking while in others there seems to be an overabundance. Using an online mental health tool like BetterHelp can make things much easier for you and your prospective therapists. Not only do they have a counselor directory, but they list them by areas of expertise as well as areas of the locality. You can easily find out more information about each healthcare provider by clicking into their profile.

In addition, each counselor or therapist is listed with their licensing and experience so you know exactly who you would be talking to should you decide to contact them. BetterHelp has accredited and licensed professional counselors (LPC), clinical social workers (LCSW), licensed marriage and family therapists (MFT), social workers (MSW), and psychologists (Ph.D./PsyD) who all have either a master's or doctorate degrees in their field of expertise. It's worth noting that you cannot connect with a Psychiatrist (M.D.) through BetterHelp. (Read below for some reviews and updates of BetterHelp counselors, from people seeking DBT treatment for a positive effect.)

BetterHelp Therapist Reviews

"I can say with confidence that Daniel has given me tools that have helped me immensely in a relatively short period. I am glad I stuck with this program and that I was paired with him. When I need more interaction he is there responding to my messages promptly and when I procrastinate he's there to give me a nudge back to the reality we need to keep the dialogue going (my words, not his). I highly recommend him!"

"I am a 42-year-old female, successful entrepreneur in a loving marriage, and have a bright and healthy 4-year-old boy. I shouldn't have anything to complain about. I am generally happy, motivated, and have ample self-confidence. So why in the world would I need therapy? Because I need help with constructive ideas to control my negative attitude. I'm generally not a negative person but I'm very self-aware that I have vast mood swings of anger and pessimism and I get that from my dad. I chose Douglas because he counsels using cognitive behavioral therapy and anger management - which is the kind of therapy I need. Douglas comes up with clear solutions and I appreciate that. I didn't want a therapist to tell me to talk about my day and how does that makes me feel and that it's normal to have these feelings. I know it is normal to feel angry sometimes, but I wanted to understand how to recognize it and address it. So if you need a constructive conversation with fast results for everyday annoyances and (especially effective child-rearing advice!) I think Douglas is your therapist."


Maybe you have been struggling for years with a number of emotional issues or overwhelming borderline personality disorder. You may struggle with fear of abandonment, chaotic relationships, identity issues, mood challenges, impulsive behavior, sleep challenges, self-harming or crisis / suicidal behavior, drug addiction or misuse of drugs, anger issues or anxiety, and stress disorders. Whatever the cause of your concern, talking to a professional can help. Whether you need DBT, CBT, or any other type of counseling, you can find someone who can help by reaching out. Take the first step and get to a better place.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on DBT

What is DBT therapy used to treat?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) therapy is primarily used in treating Borderline Personality Disorder. Patients with this disorder struggle with emotion regulation, which is a critical element to living a healthy, happy life. Individual psychotherapy with an effective consultation team can create positive changes in the form of helping patients become fully aware of the reasoning behind these intense negative emotions. 

What are the six main points of dialectical behavior therapy?

The six unique elements of dialectical behaviour therapy are: Acceptance and Change, Behavioral, Cognitive, Skill Sets, Collaboration, and Support. DBT skills training targets behavior skills, new skills, mindfulness skills, group skills training, and distress tolerance skills to help develop new thinking patterns.

What is DBT therapy vs CBT?
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is centered around thought patterns and changing how we think (negative thinking patterns). Dialectical Behavior Therapy helps patients manage emotions regulation and possibly harmful or self destructive behaviors-- helping them accept themselves and feel safe. Binge Eating Disorder, for example, might use DBT training. When experiencing intense negative emotions or personality disorders, the dialectical behavioural therapy program can be an effective treatment.

What are the 4 components of DBT?

Individual therapy sessions focus on mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation.

Can you learn DBT on your own?

It's possible to learn these skills without realizing it. All the tools are easily and can be done anytime, anywhere. Although it is beneficial to learn from a professional to see maximum results. Sometimes, participating in group therapy DBT in a group setting with other group can also help a patient accept and control their emotions. 

Who is DBT appropriate for?

DBT was initially designed for people who have patterns of self harm or suicidal behavior and borderline personality disorder. Current indications of effectiveness have had this treatment history adapted to address other mental health problems that threaten a person's safety, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. (Examples include bulimia nervosa, self harm, drug addiction, etc).

What does a DBT session look like?

These sessions are closer to taking a class in social interaction than a traditional therapy session with an individual therapist. Groups learn new skills modules which enhances client motivation, and often is accompanied by homework exercises and phone coaching.

What are the pros and cons of DBT?

Pros: decreasing risk of suicidal and self-harm behaviors, decreasing behaviors that interfere with quality of life, learning and mastering behavior skills.

Cons: significant time commitment with both attendance and homework, and may not work for everyone.

Is DBT good for trauma?

DBT can be as effective for treating PTSD, substance use disorder, and helping chronically suicidal individuals as other trauma treatments, yes.

Is CBT or DBT better for trauma?

For depression, anxiety, OCD, phobias and PTSD, Cognitive Behavior Therapy has shown to be more effective. For borderline personality disorder, self-harm behaviors and chronic suicidal ideation, DBT has been more effective.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.