Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based model of therapy that aims to teach people new skills and strategies that can enable them into creating fulfilling lives.1

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). DBT is designed to help manage emotional dysregulation, increased distress tolerance, and improve interpersonal relationships. It also emphasizes the importance of balancing acceptance and change, which is the key aspect of the therapy.1

DBT is built on four main components: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. These components are taught through individual therapy sessions, group skills training, phone coaching, and therapist consultation meetings.2

Who can Benefit from DBT?

DBT was initially developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals and evolved into a treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD).However, its applications have expanded over time to include individuals with other mental health conditions and those experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties.

DBT has been found to be effective in treating various mental health conditions, including:

-       Eating disorders (including anorexia nervosa)4

-       Substance use disorders5

-       Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)6

-       Emotional dysregulation7

How does DBT work?

DBT is typically delivered in four stages, each focusing on specific treatment goals.1

  1. Stage 1: Stabilization – The primary goal in this stage is to target and reduce life-threatening behaviours, such as self-harm, suicide attempts, or severe self-neglect. Individuals also work on acquiring basic coping skills and improving their overall quality of life.

  1. Stage 2: Emotional Processing – In this stage, individuals learn to process and confront traumatic experiences or unresolved emotional conflicts. This stage involves exposure-based techniques to reduce avoidance and help individuals face their fears and emotions.

  1. Stage 3: Building a Life Worth Living – During this stage, individuals focus on developing long-term goals and finding a sense of purpose in their lives. They work on improving their interpersonal relationships, enhancing self-esteem, and achieving a sense of contentment.

  1. Stage 4: Synthesis and Integration – This final stage is reserved for individuals who have achieved a level of emotional and behavioural stability but who still struggle with spiritual or existential concerns. This stage aims to help the individual find a deeper sense of meaning and connectedness in their lives.

Does DBT Work for teenagers?

DBT has a solid evidence base supporting its effectiveness in treating various mental health conditions. Multiple randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses have demonstrated that DBT is effective in reducing self-harm, suicide behaviours, and parasuicidal behaviours.3, 8 Additionally, research has shown that DBT can lead to improvements in emotion regulation, interpersonal functioning, as well as reducing depression severity.7

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a powerful treatment that has been proven effective for individuals struggling with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Its structured approach and focus on balancing acceptance and change make it an invaluable tool for those seeking long-term improvements in their mental health.

Psychotheray and DBT in Toronto

DBT is an approach that many psychotherapists get trained in. However, to ensure that a psychotherapist can effectively treat your mental health issues in Toronto, you can have an open discussion about the psychotherapist’s training and experience.

If you are looking to book an appointment for psychotherapy sessions in Toronto, our psychotherapists are available in downtown Toronto, especifically in East York and Yong and Bloor (Yorkville).

Contact us at info@therapediacentre.com to find out about our availability.



Dialectical behavioural therapy. CAMH. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2023, from https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/dialectical-behaviour-therapy

About Us. Behavioral Research Therapy Clinics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2023, from https://depts.washington.edu/uwbrtc/about-us/dialectical-behavior-therapy/

3 Panos PT, Jackson JW, Hasan O, Panos A. Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review Assessing the Efficacy of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Res Soc Work Pract. 2014 Mar;24(2):213-223. doi: 10.1177/1049731513503047. Epub 2013 Sep 19. PMID: 30853773; PMCID: PMC6405261.

4 Chen EY, Segal K, Weissman J, Zeffiro TA, Gallop R, Linehan MM, Bohus M, Lynch TR. Adapting dialectical behavior therapy for outpatient adult anorexia nervosa–a pilot study. Int J Eat Disord. 2015 Jan;48(1):123-32. doi: 10.1002/eat.22360. Epub 2014 Oct 27. PMID: 25346237; PMCID: PMC5670741.

5 Dimeff LA, Linehan MM. Dialectical behavior therapy for substance abusers. Addict Sci Clin Pract. 2008 Jun;4(2):39-47. doi: 10.1151/ascp084239. PMID: 18497717; PMCID: PMC2797106.

6 Harned MS, Korslund KE, Foa EB, Linehan MM. Treating PTSD in suicidal and self-injuring women with borderline personality disorder: development and preliminary evaluation of a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Prolonged Exposure Protocol. Behav Res Ther. 2012 Jun;50(6):381-6. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2012.02.011. Epub 2012 Mar 11. PMID: 22503959; PMCID: PMC3348973.

7 Neacsiu, A. D., Eberle, J. W., Kramer, R., Wiesmann, T., & Linehan, M. M. (2014). Dialectical behavior therapy skills for transdiagnostic emotion dysregulation: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 59, 40–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2014.05.005

8 Kliem S, Kroger C, Kosfelder J. Dialectical behavior therapy for borderline personality disorder: a meta-analysis using mixed-effects modeling. 2010. In: Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK80064/