What is DBT Group Therapy?

Have you ever felt like you are too tired to go to work, yet you go and push through? Have you ever been happy for someone else and sad for yourself? Do you know how it feels to want to stop misusing alcohol or drugs and simultaneously want to feel intoxicated? Do you accept and love your body the way it is and want to lose weight? These statements are examples of dialectical thinking. But what is DBT, or dialectical behavioral therapy? And what is DBT Group Therapy?

You can probably develop a long list of personal examples consisting of love and hate or want and don’t want scenarios. One researcher discovered that accepting yourself while seeking change benefits people with certain mental health disorders.

Who Created DBT Therapy?

In the 1980s, Dr. Marsha Linehan worked with clients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). She found it was not enough by itself to help someone with BPD make significant progress. She began adding dialectical techniques to enhance CBT, now known as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

DBT has been studied, and the results are encouraging. DBT group therapy has been found through studies to reduce suicidality more than in groups not using DBT. Another study followed DBT borderline personality participants for one year. Remarkably, 75% of the participants no longer met the diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder.

DBT effectiveness may be due to the specific components that teach you the necessary skills.

What Are the Main Components of DBT?

Dialectical behavioral therapy is based on a combination of elements:

Dialectics are two things that are true and happening now that seem to be contradictory or opposite of one another. You will learn to accept your current situation and change and grow to improve your situation.

Mindfulness teaches you to be present and aware to live in the moment. If you find yourself rushing through your day, going through the motions at work, home, school, and socially but lacking engagement and connections, mindfulness can help.

Additionally, mindfulness can help you focus on your mental and physical health needs. It is a skill that improves how you pay attention. Rather than put off meeting your needs, you can address them now before they become bigger issues. Mindfulness helps you have more control over your mind, teaching you how to avoid overreactions and irrational thinking.

Interpersonal effectiveness refers to the health of your relationships, which can feel chaotic when they are unhealthy. Mental health disorders may make it challenging to maintain healthy relationships. With DBT, however, you learn specific skills for improving relationships. Examples of skills include assertiveness and communication.

You learn to balance your needs with what others want instead of always putting other people before yourself. You can learn to say “no” without feeling guilty or worrying if someone will still like you.

Distress tolerance helps you handle the minor and significant stressors everyone experiences. You learn to control and avoid unhealthy impulses to ease stress and instead implement specific tools for overcoming distress, like self-soothing.

If your typical response to being angry with someone is to lash out, immediately start yelling, and unleash a stream of horrible words, then you do not know how to tolerate stress.

Emotional regulation helps you understand and balance emotions. You learn to react to situations using the appropriate intensity of emotion. Also, you gain more control over your emotions.

What is DBT Group Therapy? And Where Can I Receive It?

DBT is utilized by licensed substance abuse or mental health therapists working in various settings, including private practice, mental health centers, treatment centers, and recovery environments. It is effective in individual and group therapies, as well as through telephone and virtual meetings.

Studies show that DBT is an effective treatment method in all settings. It is particularly effective in skills training groups, even those offered virtually. Also, it is effective for more than a borderline personality disorder.

Because DBT focuses on teaching specific behavioral skills you can use in everyday situations, DBT skills groups incorporate peer support to enhance learning. DBT skills groups are effective for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders, and ADHD.

How DBT Group Therapy Works

DBT group therapy can occur in person or online via teletherapy. Many agencies use virtual meeting sites like Zoom. You log into the group and participate in the session at the assigned time. DBT group therapy typically occurs in stages, like all other counseling techniques.

In the beginning, you are more likely to be experiencing a crisis, or your mental health symptoms are more severe. Some people may be having suicidal thoughts or engaging in self-harm. Therefore, dealing with immediate issues and ensuring you become stabilized will be a top priority.

As DBT group therapy progresses, you will learn the skills of interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and mindfulness. You will be given opportunities to practice your skills through homework assignments and in-class discussions about implementing what you learn in real-life, real-time situations.

Once you learn the DBT skills, treatment focuses on helping you achieve success in all areas of your life, including feeling good about yourself, healthy relationships, and reaching goals.

How DBT Group Therapy Differs From Other Group Therapies

Dialectical behavioral therapy groups are unlike typical mental health or support groups related to addiction or substance abuse treatment. They resemble educational classes more than anything. You are in the group to learn a new skill, not process past traumas or emotions or share your story with the group.

During each DBT group session, you will practice a new skill. For example, one session may include practicing distress tolerance. You will be given tools for tolerating stress and exercises to practice in the group. Then you will be given homework assignments to help you continue practicing your new skill.


Now that you know what is DBT group therapy, why not consider it for yourself?

DBT group therapy can benefit many people with varying mental health issues. You can see the rewards of DBT group therapy in your life by joining a DBT group online and participating from the comfort of home.

Ready to start? The Mental Health Center has a DBT Zoom class. Reach out or contact us to join today.