DBT Training For Therapists

A woman sitting on a couch offering DBT training to another person.

Originally developed through experimentation with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), is an increasingly common treatment method.

As a specialized treatment, DBT was designed to help those struggling with strong emotional responses by taking an approach that seems contradictory on the surface: DBT encourages both acceptance and change.

Initially developed for treating BPD, DBT has since been adapted as a successful therapy for numerous conditions. It’s a high intensity treatment, so therapists who wish to utilize DBT effectively must consider further training.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the training you need for Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

What Is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a form of talking therapy. The main client goals of DBT are to accept difficult feelings, develop skills to manage these feelings, and apply these skills to make positive life changes.

DBT was developed from Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, as a method for treating intense emotional response among those with BPD. DBT takes a dialectical approach: it teaches acceptance and change as complimentary responses, rather than opposites.

DBT places a focus on accepting an emotional experience, balanced with changing negative actions.

DBT requires both individual therapy and group therapy. Although it was initially developed for treating BPD and those with chronic suicidal behavior, DBT has been adapted for treating various mental health conditions.

DBT can help those who struggle to regulate an emotional response, or display self-destructive behavior. DBT has also been used as a treatment for PTSD.

Understanding DBT Training For Therapists

DBT uses a combination of group and individual therapies to encourage patients to accept emotional responses, and develop healthy behavior patterns. It’s often used to treat those with mood disorders and self-destructive behaviors (see also ‘What Is A Covert Narcissist?‘).

DBT is a high-intensity treatment with a heavy focus on acceptance and mindfulness. It also requires group therapy, which won’t appeal to all clients.

Therapists interested in the DBT treatment will need to be trained in these key points:

  • Individual therapy. Individual therapy sessions are an essential part of DBT, and as a therapist, you will need to understand topics such as behavioral chain analysis, data tracking, and creating and prioritizing objectives.
  • Group sessions. The group component is another key area of DBT. A typical group session will include up to 10 individuals, and will last between 1 and 3 hours. Group sessions will cover core topics such as mindfulness, as well as teaching behavioral skills.
  • Phone coaching. Phone, or otherwise distanced, coaching is encouraged between client and therapist. You will need to understand setting healthy limits and recognizing interfering behaviors.
  • Group Consultations. If you train in DBT, you will be expected to complete group consultations with other health care providers. These sessions will discuss care plans, and the best application of DBT.

Examples Of DBT Courses

DBT is a complex treatment method that is used to help those with severe emotional responses. It’s an intense treatment plan, and if you intend to incorporate DBT into your practice, it’s essential to receive proper training.

To practice DBT as a healthcare professional, you must first have a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology or a related area. These courses may include DBT as an optional or standard topic. DBT might also be included in a Master’s Degree, depending on your specialization.

However, you may not have received any DBT training during your initial education, or you may want to enhance your knowledge. In this case, there are many certified DBT courses that can offer you complete training in this area.

If you are interested in DBT certification, one of the first places to look is the DBT-Linehan Board of Certification. Modeled after the DBT program developed by Marsha M. Linehan, the founder of the DBT method, DBT-Linehan offers certification from a number of accredited clinics.

Alternatively, you may be interested in an online course. Some options include Psychotherapy Academy: DBT In Practice and the Portland DBT Institute.

How Long Does It Take To Train As A DBT Therapist?

A course specifically aimed at teaching DBT is likely to take between 1 and 2 years to complete. These courses tend to run on a set timeline, although some options will allow you to create your own schedule.

However, DBT is taught as an addition to an already developed skill set, so it isn’t something you can undertake with no prior training as a therapist. Core tenets of DBT, such as phone coaching and consultation with other health care professionals, require complete training to establish boundaries.

DBT is commonly used for treating clients with a severe emotional response, and is often used when more conventional treatments have proven ineffective. An understanding of DBT can help you find an effective treatment plan for conditions such as PTSD, eating disorders, and addiction.

Is DBT Effective?

Yes, DBT has been shown as an effective treatment for various mood disorders and other strong emotional responses. It was originally developed as a treatment for BPD, and before the advent of DBT, this condition was largely seen as untreatable.

There is a wealth of research backing DBT as an effective treatment for multiple conditions, changing the way people approach their emotions by encouraging them to accept and reassess.

DBT is becoming an increasingly popular method of treatment, and courses are readily available worldwide. Children, adolescents, and adults can all potentially benefit from DBT, and the treatment method is now also being used for those with eating disorders and addictions.

Summary: Should You Choose DBT Training?

DBT training is a form of talk therapy that encourages clients with a strong emotional response to accept their feelings, while making positive behavioral changes. It is an intense form of therapy that includes both individual and group sessions, as well as distance coaching.

With mindfulness and data tracking two of the key core components, DBT requires complex training.

As DBT is frequently used to treat clients who haven’t responded to other therapies, it’s a useful skill for therapists to understand. DBT training is included in some Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees, or you can seek additional licensed training.

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