DBT and its 5 main goals for how it works

Who Benefits From DBT? Who Does DBT Work For?

Has Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) treatment been recommended to you? Or maybe you‘ve heard about DBT and are wondering if it’s what you’re looking for. Perhaps you’re a parent who is searching for the most effective treatment for your struggling child. Let’s explore a few ways which DBT treatment or DBT Skills Groups could help you and your loved ones.

Is DBT Right For Me?

Marsha Lineahan set her sights on finding an effective treatment for those struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder. Her pursuit eventually led her to create DBT. DBT is extremely effective for treating people with high-risk behaviors, including suicidal and self-harming behaviors. Even though DBT was originally made to treat those risky behaviors, the method can be applied to a variety of other mental health concerns. Research now shows DBT has the potential to help if you have been diagnosed with any of the following disorders:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorder

How will DBT help me and my struggles?

Do you struggle with finding life’s meaning and sometimes feel worthless or hopeless?

DBT empowers you by teaching you skills which assist you with identifying your values and priorities so that you can purposefully pursue them, and ultimately achieve that life worth living. 

Do you have a difficult time controlling your emotions or your thoughts?

DBT wise mind vendiagram: rational mind on left, emotional mind on right, wise mind in overlap in the middle

And does this sometimes lead to depression or anxiety? DBT focuses on teaching you skills to better manage stressful situations and prioritizes constructively regulating your emotions. 

Do your mood swings seem to take control of your life which leads you to make impulsive decisions that you later regret?

Or perhaps you abuse substances to avoid and escape painful emotions altogether. DBT is designed to help you manage volatile emotions. You will learn to take a step back to gain perspective, slow things down to reduce time pressures, and use effective problem-solving skills to make informed and rewarding decisions. 

Do you struggle to pay attention /or focus with school or work tasks?

Some DBT skills will help increase your attentiveness and reduce distractions to improve overall work performance.

Do your relationships trigger intense emotions. Or do your emotions negatively impact your relationships?

Relationship tension exacerbates emotional distress. And likewise, emotions have the potential to lead to relationship distress. When underlying emotional dysregulation causes tension on an existing relationship, more complications occur. DBT teaches both emotional regulation techniques and interpersonal effectiveness techniques. This helps to minimize this feedback loop and can slow down this spiral of emotional and relationship stress. DBT also teaches beneficial communication methods. One of our favorite phrases is “find the middle path”. When applied to common relationship scenarios, this helps you brainstorm solutions that reasonably accommodates both you and your loved ones’ needs.  

Are you a teenager? Do you have a teenager?

The developmental stage of being a teenager means navigating the various changes that accompany their transition to adulthood. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to experiencing extreme emotions. They are also susceptible to fraught relationships with both parents and peers. For all these reasons, DBT is a great fit for teens even without pre-existing diagnoses. DBT teaches skills where you can apply dialectics into your decision making, which helps you to center yourself between extreme and fluctuating emotions, which are typically present in this stage of life. DBT also promotes effective ways for you to identify your values and priorities and further helps you to methodically communicate those to your parents. 

Are you a parent wondering if DBT can help you?

Absolutely! We highly recommend that parents learn the skills along with their child. This magnifies the treatment’s effectiveness for your child. Often, when your child is struggling with regulating their emotions, you will also experience a similar or parallel difficulty with your own emotions. Therefore it can be doubly effective for parents to learn DBT skills, both to use themselves and to more effectively support their child’s effort to learn and properly use these skills.

Even with the best intentions, a dysregulated parent attempting to help their dysregulated child is a recipe for disaster. As such, it may be beneficial to participate in a Parent Support Group and/or DBT Parent Coaching to acquire skills for self-regulation. This will help remain calm during critical times and help set and maintain necessary boundaries with your child. 

DBT Dialectical behavior therapy and the 5 modules and goals for how it works

But Will DBT Work for Me?

DBT is taught and utilized throughout the world. This demonstrates its adaptability. There is limited (but growing) research on its effectiveness with children below age 13. However, we believe that DBT is versatile enough to support children through both present struggles and preventive skills as they enter into their teen years.

Furthermore, DBT research does not distinguish efficacy amongst different races and ethnicities. There are questions about whether or not DBT is equally effective for BIPOC communities. This is a topic which undoubtedly warrants further research. 

When Does DBT Not Work?

DBT is not recommended for people with intellectual disabilities. DBT is also not targeted to treat panic disorder/panic disorder with agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychotic disorders. Depending on the symptoms, an individual may benefit from learning DBT in combination with other therapy modalities. 

DBT works best for motivated individuals. DBT will not work for someone who 100% does not believe that they need to change. Clients who want to develop new skills and are willing to acknowledge and work towards improving unhealthy behaviors get the most out of this treatment.

If you worry that there might be times you’ll want to give up or that it might be too hard, thats ok! DBT treatment can support you in coping with these thoughts. Similarly, if you have a loved one who is resistant to treatment, DBT is well-suited to address this via specific commitment strategies. You don’t have to be 100% on board to benefit. But you have to have some iota of willingness for DBT to work.

We understand that making changes in your life can be scary. Sometimes your desire to make changes or to participate in therapy may fluctuate. DBT is uniquely equipped to deal with these challenges. A part of DBT includes learning skills that address willfulness and accepting the changes that are necessary to achieve your short and long term goals.

For those who are anxious or fearful of joining a DBT Skills Group, individual DBT therapy can also be helpful. An individual therapist can teach you many of the coping skills noted above. Furthermore, individual therapy may have the added benefit of allowing you to address some of the anxieties you anticipate facing in a group setting. Reading this blog about What is a DBT Skills Group? may also help reduce the anxiety.

If you still have questions about whether or not DBT is a good fit for you, schedule a consultation with a DBT provider.

Here at Montgomery County Counseling Center, we provide DBT Skills Groups for ages 9 and up. We also offer individual therapy and Parent Coaching, both led by our DBT-trained therapists. We would be happy to speak with you about any questions you may have and look forward to helping you take the next step! 

Click here to contact us for a DBT consultation!

About The Author

Kristen Moyer, DBT therapist in Maryland

Kristen Moyer, LCPC is a licensed clinical professional counselor with Montgomery County Counseling Center in Maryland. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from West Chester University (PA) in 2010 and continued on to earn her Master’s Degree in Professional Clinical Counseling from La Salle University (PA) in 2014. First working as a Registered Behavioral Technician, Kristen provided behavioral therapy to children diagnosed with Autism. She also worked as a counselor at a K-12 private school, where I administered individual and group therapy to students. In 2017, she began working with children and adolescents who struggle with education and their behavior in a school setting and has since evolved to working with adolescents and young adults in DBT settings. Kristen is currently accepting DBT clients ages 10 and up!

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