Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) was developed on Long Island, New York in the 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan. Dr Linehan was doing graduate work at Stony Brook, when she realized that a strictly behavioral approach to therapy did not work with certain clients who feared and struggled with change. But when she switched to a purely acceptance-based approach, she realized that this did not work either because clients were unhappy and needed to take steps towards improving their lives.
Dr. Lineman decided to create a behavioral therapy that drew from several different schools of thought including cognitive behavioral therapy, which emphasizes changing thoughts and behaviors, and Eastern meditation practices, which emphasizes a mindful, acceptance-based approach. Delicately balancing this dialectic of acceptance and change became the basis of Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
So What is DBT Therapy? DBT is often used to treat borderline personality disorder and the theory which forms the basis of this DBT treatment states that many of the problems we experience stem from our emotional vulnerability and difficulty in regulating our intense emotional responses. If your biological makeup leads you to struggle with your emotions, you can develop difficulties in many areas of your life. Some of these difficulties may be manifested in behaviors such as suicide attempts, acting impulsively, addictions, self-harm such as cutting and eating disorders. Sometimes you struggle with your thoughts, for example, suicidal thoughts, cognitive distortions and confusion. You may also find yourself struggling with feelings of emptiness or self-hatred or you may have difficulties in your relationships, such as being involved in enmeshed, co-dependent, abusive or avoidance relationships, or having fears of abandonment. These problems can also be made worse when your emotions are invalidated, discounted, shamed, or criticized by others.