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Components of a DBT Program

There are four components of a DBT program: individual therapy, skills group, phone coaching, and therapist consultation team.

1.) Individual Therapy

Clients meet with a therapist once weekly for 50 minutes. During these treatment sessions, therapists help clients to solve problems in their lives and to achieve their treatment goals while also communicating compassion and understanding for clients’ perspectives.

In individual therapy, there is a focus on reducing or eliminating life-threatening behaviours (e.g., suicide attempts; self-harm), behaviours that get in the way of therapy (e.g., lateness; not completing therapy homework), and behaviours that otherwise interfere with the quality of life that clients desire (e.g., substance abuse; impulsive behaviours; mood and anxiety problems). Therapists build a collaborative and genuine relationship with clients, and use a variety of techniques to help clients solve problems and change their lives.

2.) Skills Group

Clients starting DBT often do not have all of the skills for managing their behaviour, thinking, and emotions in effective ways that contribute to the kinds of lives they want to have. Therefore, an important aspect of DBT is teaching these skills. DBT skills groups are held weekly for 2 hours, and include 8 to 10 clients and 2 co-therapists.

During groups, clients learn the following skills:

Mindfulness: Skills to control attention, understand oneself and situations better, and to stay in the present moment.

Distress Tolerance: Skills to get through a crisis, and to manage extremely difficult emotions without engaging in destructive behaviours that make situations worse.

Emotion Regulation: Skills to manage the intensity of emotions in the long run so that there are less painful emotions and more positive emotions.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: Skills to make relationships better, and to effectively handle interactions with others.

3.) Phone Coaching

Phone coaching allows clients to receive support between sessions so that they can use skills in situations outside of therapy. Clients have access to their therapist after-hours to help them be as effective as possible in their lives, and to reinforce what they are learning in treatment.

4.) Therapist Consultation Team

DBT therapists work as a team. They meet weekly to provide important feedback to each other so that clients ultimately receive the most effective therapy.