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Explains what dialectical behaviour therapy is, who it can help, what happens during therapy and how to access it.
DBT was originally developed as a treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD) and you are most likely to be offered DBT through the NHS if you have a diagnosis of BPD.
Some NHS services also offer DBT to children and adolescents, people with drug and alcohol problems, eating problems and offending behaviour. Research shows that DBT can be also helpful in tackling problems such as:
Watch Debbie talk about her experience of DBT as treatment for her BPD diagnosis.
"Before DBT, I felt like the only solution was suicide... Now that I have completed my treatment I am now able to look forward. My thoughts and emotions used to control me; now I can control them. Of course, I have my bad days, but through learning various skills from DBT I can ride the waves of my depression rather than letting them swallow me."
Some people can find DBT difficult in the beginning, as it requires accepting your problems and working hard to change them. However, after a while you might come to feel that your efforts were worthwhile.
If you are wondering whether DBT is right for you, it might be helpful to think about these questions:
In some areas, you may be offered DBT pre-treatment to help you decide whether it is the right therapy for you.
"My personal experiences of DBT were very mixed. At first it was really tough, and I wondered what the point of it was going to be. Some of the DBT skills seemed silly to me, but I had committed myself to the process and as time passed, it started to make more sense."
It's important to remember that everyone experiences therapy differently. Some people may find DBT helpful, but others may find it isn't right for them. If you don't get along with DBT then you could:
"DBT isn’t for everyone. There is very definitely a right time and a wrong time to do it. Its something you have to be ready for because it’s very hard work... It’s not a short term thing... you have to work at it every single day. It’s hard to do, and even now, some 2 years after I completed the therapy, I’m still having to work at it."
(See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for more information about how to access treatment.)
This information was published in April 2017. We will revise it in 2020.
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