What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy? (The Pros and Cons of DBT)

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Published Date|
May 30, 2023

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy? (The Pros and Cons of DBT)

Sometimes, your emotions can feel outside of your control.

We all have moments when we’re faced with a difficult situation and react based on our first instinct - often in a way that leaves us feeling upset and embarrassed later on.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy can be a great way to regain a sense of control over your emotions - but what happens during DBT, and is it the right choice for you?

As a registered psychotherapist with 8 years of experience in the mental health field, I’m passionate about helping you to gain the skills necessary to become the person you are striving to be. 

I’m here to help you learn about what types of therapy could be a great choice for you - and when another option may be the better fit.

After reading this article, you’ll know what Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is, what happens during each of its four modules, and how to know if it’s the right choice for you.

What is ​Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that was developed to help individuals regain a sense of control over their emotional responses.

It was first created by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan to help people living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and individuals struggling with suicidal ideation or self-harming behaviours. 

It has since evolved to address several other mental health concerns, with a primary focus on helping individuals learn tools to manage emotional dysregulation

DBT can help with issues including:

  • Trauma
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Substance Misuse

What Happens During DBT?

DBT can be a wonderful tool for clients looking to regain control over their emotional responses and live a more enriching life. 

However, DBT, like any other form of therapy, requires a willingness and open mind on the client’s part to be effective.

During DBT, your therapist will take you through four different modules.

The 4 Modules in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy are:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Distress Tolerance
  3. Emotional Regulation
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness


Mindfulness is a tool that allows you to develop an awareness of the present moment without judgment. Within this module, you’ll learn to stop, observe and describe your emotions, thoughts and experiences without getting caught up in them. 

Distress Tolerance

Distress Tolerance skills allow you to work through and build a tolerance to difficult and distressing situations in your life without making the problem worse. This module includes learning skills to help distract, self-soothe, and radically accept difficult life situations or emotions. 

dbt dialectical behavior therapy four models

Emotional Regulation

Throughout this module, you’ll learn how to identify and manage your intense emotions in healthy ways. This module involves learning to name and validate your emotions which in turn allows you to move through difficult emotions much more easily. 

Interpersonal Effectiveness

This module allows you to learn tools to help with communication and relationships. Throughout this module, you will develop a variety of techniques to help them learn to set boundaries, speak more assertively and work through conflict in a constructive manner.

Pros of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy can be used to treat a wide range of mental health concerns such as BPD, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, eating disorders, and more.

DBT can be a great choice if you’re looking to:

  • Develop effective coping skills
  • Feel empowered to build a life worth living
  • Grow your feelings of self-worth and self-respect

DBT may also be used concurrently with another form of therapy to help you develop additional coping skills and work through difficult situations as they occur. 

Cons of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

While DBT benefits many people, different approaches may be more suitable depending on your specific needs. 

DBT may not be the right choice for you if:

  • You’re looking to process severe past trauma
  • You’re looking for a shorter-term therapy option
  • You’re not interested in doing rigorous work between therapy sessions

DBT also doesn’t have a formal process for addressing past trauma. 

If your primary goal is to process severe past trauma, a more suitable form of therapy to address this need may be an evidence-based trauma-focused therapy such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). 

EMDR can be a very effective tool to process intense past traumas safely.

dbt dialectical behaviour therapy pros and cons

What are Alternatives to Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?

After learning more about the pros and cons of DBT, you might be interested in exploring other therapy options.

Some alternatives to DBT include:

  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

These forms of therapy can help you identify and reframe negative thoughts, commit to actions that align with your personal values, and develop more psychological flexibility.

Some other alternatives to DBT include Schema Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

Next Steps for Beginning Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

After reading this article, you now understand what DBT is, how to know if it could be the right fit for you, and some alternative options to explore.

Here at KMA Therapy, we’re passionate about ensuring your therapy process is customized to your unique personality and experiences.

During your introductory appointment, we’ll match you with your ideal therapist and help determine whether Dialectical Behaviour Therapy or another form of therapy could be the best fit for you.

Book your introductory appointment today, or connect with our caring team if you have any questions.

If you’re not yet ready to book an appointment, you can explore these articles to keep learning:

About the Author

Liana Danese is a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. She received her Master ofArts in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University and her undergraduate degree in thanatology and psychology from Western University.


Liana is well-versed in working with adults with a variety of psychological issues such as grief, trauma, substance use, self-worth, shame-based thinking, self-love, self-esteem, body image, searching for purpose and meaning, and much more.


Book an appointment to begin working with Liana!

Author |
Liana Danese
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