Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy is a psychotherapy treatment originally developed in the early 1990s to treat chronically suicidal patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) grew out of failed attempts by Marsha Linehan (1943–) and colleagues to apply traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to suicidal clients. The resulting modifications to CBT formed the foundation of DBT, which combines the basic cognitive behavioral strategies with eastern mindfulness practice and Zen principles. Although it was developed to help individuals with BPD, DBT has evolved into a treatment for a variety of disorders, including bipolar disorder, eating disorders, drug abuse, and severe depression.

Researchers have conducted a number of clinical trials since DBT was developed in the early 1990s, most of which support the efficacy of DBT in treatment of BPD, compared to that of other common treatments. Evaluation of outcomes is limited mostly to measurable factors such as incidents of self-harm or suicidal behaviors in patients. The success of DBT techniques has the potential to increase optimism among therapists in treating this historically difficult disorder.

See also Psychotherapy .



McKay, Matthew, and Jeffrey C. Wood. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2011.

Linehan, Marsha. Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press, 1993.


Dimeff, Linda, and Marsha M. Linehan. “Dialectical Behavior Therapy in a Nutshell.” The California Psychologist 34 (2001): 10–13.


Linehan Institute Behavioral Tech. “What is DBT?” http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisDBT.cfm (accessed July 17, 2015).


Behavioral Tech, LLC, 4746 11th Ave. NE, Ste. 102, Seattle, WA, 98105, (206) 675-8588, Fax: (206) 675-8590, info@behavioraltech.org, http://behavioraltech.org .

Dialogic learning see Learning: dialogic.