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    Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): The Basics

    Pathways Counseling Services offers expert DBT treatment to individuals and groups local to the Scottsdale, AZ area. To schedule an appointment, please call us at (480) 235-1682 or fill out the form here.

    What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

    Originally intended to treat Borderline Personality Disorder in the late 1980s, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has since become a highly effective treatment option for people with self-destructive and/or suicidal tendencies, substance abuse issues, anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. DBT is designed to help individuals recognize their emotional triggers and implement healthy coping strategies to overcome negative feelings or patterns of thinking. Rather than continue resorting to self-harm or other negative behaviors when an obstacle or issue is encountered, DBT gives these individuals mindfulness methods and techniques they can implement to help counteract their issues in a more positive, productive, and proactive way.

    As suggested by the “Dialectical” portion of its name–the philosophy that characterizes reality as a balance of opposite forces in tension–DBT helps individuals learn to balance and make sense of contradictory thoughts and feelings in order to overcome negative patterns of behavior. Rather than view issues through a good or bad, black or white, all or nothing lens (which may often lead individuals to negative and irrational patterns of thought), DBT provides a framework clients can use to improve their ability to understand and accept positive change.

    How DBT treatment works

    Facilitated either in individual counseling sessions or larger group sessions, DBT focuses on building and improving emotional problem-solving skills in four primary areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.


    Learning to be more mindful helps the individual focus more on the present (i.e. what’s happening here and now) rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about hypothetical situations in the future. This promotes a much healthier, proactive pattern of thinking.

    Distress tolerance

    Rather than run away from distress or obstacles in one’s life, individuals are taught to deal with them directly. Doing so helps people fix the problems that weigh into their lives rather than irrationally pretend they don’t exist or aren’t a real issue.

    Emotional regulation

    Emotional regulation helps individuals better manage and address triggers that cause emotional pain. By understanding how one personally reacts to certain situations or stimuli, those people will have a stronger notion of what they can do to positively influence the situation or their behavior (rather than withdraw, resort to self-harm, or give in to any kind of destructive activity).

    Interpersonal effectiveness

    With any mental illness, communicating with loved ones can be extremely difficult–and sometimes contentious. Strengthening one’s interpersonal skills can help individuals learn to be more mindful and respectful communicators. Doing so not only helps people communicate their needs more clearly to their loved ones, but it can also help those struggling with mental illness understand how deeply they are loved by their friends, partners, and families.

    DBT vs. CBT: What’s the Difference?

    DBT isn’t separate from traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. Instead, it’s an extension of it. Since CBT uses a more logical approach to combat negative feelings and improve problem-solving skills, DBT was developed to help individuals who traditionally struggled with those logical components still find a way to correct negative thoughts or behavior.

    Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Pathways Counseling Services provides DBT treatment and other behavioral therapy services to help clients get the tools they need to deal with their distress and destructive behavior in a more healthy way. If you feel DBT treatment may be a positive step forward in your life, we are more than happy to talk. Give us a call at (480) 235-1682 or schedule an appointment here and we will be in touch.