Frequently Asked Questions about DBT

Where can I find basic information on DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment that was originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and it is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population. In addition, research has shown that it is effective in treating a wide range of other disorders such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

Although new research is investigating use of DBT Skills training with non-clinical populations, the majority of the data on the effectiveness of DBT focuses on its treatment of people with complex, severe mental illnesses.

For more information, keep reading here.

How can I find a DBT provider?

It’s tough when you feel like you don’t know where to turn for help. We encourage all people seeking to learning more about DBT as a treatment to read over the resource developed by TARA: Guidelines for Choosing a DBT Therapist.

The Linehan Institute does not provide mental health services, and although we can’t provide a referral to specific therapists or facilities, there are multiple ways to search for a DBT provider.

You can search for therapists who have been certified through the DBT-Linehan Board of Certification. DBT-LBC is an independent group that oversees certification, and their list of certified therapists is small but growing.

There is also a great resource called the Clinical Resource Directory (CRD). It is available on the website of the official training company of the Linehan Institute, Behavioral Tech. The CRD is a compiled listing of DBT teams and individuals who have completed comprehensive training in DBT through one of Behavioral Tech's programs. This directory is voluntary and includes just those therapists who asked to be listed for public contact.

Who does DBT help?

To date, more than 30 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) produced by nearly 20 independent research groups in nine countries have demonstrated the effectiveness of DBT for certain populations. RCTs are the gold standard for health intervention research, and meta-analyses of this extensive research have found moderate to large significant effects indicating DBT is more effective than treatment as usual in reducing suicide attempts, non-suicidal self-injury, and anger, and improving general functioning among people with borderline personality disorder (Stoffers et al., 2012; Kliem et al., 2010).

Although the strongest evidence exists for DBT as a treatment for people with borderline personality disorder, DBT has been found to be effective for a wide variety of mental health conditions. Conditions for which standard or adapted versions of DBT have been found to be effective in at least one randomized controlled trial are listed below (Note: DBT has been evaluated for many other conditions in non-RCT research).

DBT has been evaluated and found to be effective among individuals from diverse backgrounds in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity. Specifically, the demographic groups listed below have made up a sizeable proportion (25-100%) of the sample in at least one study of DBT.

  • Children (ages 7-12 years)
  • Adolescents (ages 12-18 years)
  • Young Adults (ages 18-25)
  • Adults (ages 25-60)
  • Older Adults (ages 60+)
  • Female
  • Male
Sexual orientations:
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual
  • Heterosexual
  • American Indian/Alaska Native
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Multi-racial
  • White or Caucasian

You can review the DBT research information that the Linehan Institute has collected and summarized. You can also search for DBT research articles through sites like Google Scholar or other professional search engines to review the research for yourself.

I want more information on how to get trained in DBT or get certified. What classes or books can you recommend?

Behavioral Tech, a Linehan Intstitute training company, works with clinicians and organizations who wish to learn and implement DBT. Visit the Behavioral Tech website to learn about in-person and online trainings, browse the store, and learn how to prepare for DBT certification (which is offered through the DBT Linehan Board of Certification).

For information on classes intended for families and friends of people with BPD, visit the NEA-BPD website to learn about classes in your area.