Dialectical Behaviour Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder Patients

dialectical behaviour therapy for borderline personality disorder

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was developed in 1993 by Marsha Linehan, a US Psychologist. At that time it was aimed primarily for treatment patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD patients tend to engage in self-destructive behaviour to deal with distressing emotions and situations. Main motive to develop the treatment for Linehan was that the existing portfolio of psychological therapies at that time were inadequate to treat patients with BPD.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a specific type of CBT. It combines Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with mindfulness and other Eastern Meditation and Self-insight gaining practices. It helps in dealing with distressful emotions.

Main Characteristics of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

  • Support Oriented: Instead of just looking at the illness, DBT looks at the strengths and capabilities of the clients and suggests strategies for building on them. It helps clients to focus on positive traits and capabilities in themselves and feel good about it.
    Cognitive Oriented: Just like in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), DBT helps clients look at their thoughts, challenge the assumptions and beliefs so that the thinking patterns and corresponding behaviour can be changed. So instead of saying “I am hopeless and cannot succeed ever” the client can look at the situation objectively and say to himself / herself “I am sure I will succeed eventually. Countless others have given up even without trying”.
  • DBT has group therapy components: So in addition to individual weekly or fortnightly therapy sessions, DBT has group therapy included in it. The group therapy helps clients learn interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance/reality acceptance, emotion regulation, and mindfulness skills in a group setting that is safe and supportive.
  • Addresses psychosocial aspects in the treatment: Psychosocial looks at an individual’s behavioural response in stimulus in a particular social setting. The theory is that some individuals react in a more intense and distressful manner to stimuli in some situations, particularly those found in romantic, family and friend relationships.
  • Mindfulness is an integrative part of DBT: mindfulness helps clients to be aware of their thoughts, feelings, and the corresponding behaviours or behavioural urge. By mindfulness, clients are empowered to be in charge of themselves positively. Mindful awareness helps in emotional regulation. Clients learn to accept themselves and change negative thought patterns.
  • Longer time frames: DBT has longer time frame of treatment than CBT. It usually takes over a year to complete the therapy to achieve the set goals. It also is more frequent. Client and therapist need to meet many a times twice a week.


DBT is now used to treat a wide range of problems besides Borderline Personality Disorder. So if you are wondering whether you need cognitive-behavior therapy or dialectical behavior therapy, then that is something you need to decide in close consultation with an experienced professional who is able to offer both forms of therapies. Rest assured that both DBT and CBT are proven to be effective in research for a wide range of psychological problems.


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