What Does It Mean To Be In "DBT Treatment"?
We often have clients or family members ask us about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and what it means to “be in DBT” or have a therapist who “does DBT.” This is a great question, as the language around DBT can be confusing and even inconsistent at times. In this post, we will attempt to clarify what to expect when you see the term “DBT” or are looking for a program that “does DBT.”
Although DBT is actually a trademarked term with a specific meaning, it has come to be applied quite broadly. Think of the term “DBT” as a therapy version of saying that food is “all natural” or “organic.” There is very little standardization or regulation over the use of such terms, which may result in misunderstandings between consumers and providers of the product. The term “DBT” can be used by providers or programs to cover everything from comprehensive DBT (the evidence-based treatment developed by Marsha Linehan) to integrating a DBT skill here and there in other forms of therapy. Not all “DBT” is the same and it is important as a consumer to understand what treatment you have received in the past, are currently receiving, or are entering into with a new provider. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a provider teaching a client a DBT skill here or there – frankly, all of the skills are useful for all of us! The problem is when clients aren’t sure or misunderstand what is recommended for their particular concern (e.g., a comprehensive DBT program vs. a DBT informed program).
Because comprehensive DBT is a gold-standard treatment for difficulties such as suicidal or self-harming behavior, or the emotion dysregulation associated with borderline personality disorder (BPD), we feel it is important to empower consumers to get the level of care they need to give them the best chance of reaching their therapy goals. Below is a series of tables to help differentiate between the various terms used around DBT.