What is DBT? Infographic [downloadable]

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy that was developed by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan. CHC has created an easy-to-read infographic to explain what DBT is and how it works.

Learn more about DBT

What is DBT?

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) combines behavioral science with mindfulness concepts to help people who have difficulty regulating emotions.
  • The overarching goal of DBT is to build a life worth living.
  • Dialectical means that multiple opposing perspectives can be true at the same time. The main dialectic in DBT holds that both acceptance and change are needed to move forward: to accept yourself and your life exactly as it is right now, AND to work on new ways of coping with life’s stresses.

DBT Modules

Mindfulness: focuses on improving the ability to accept and be present in the current moment.

Distress Tolerance: strives to increase tolerance of negative emotions rather than trying to escape from them with problem behavior.

Emotion Regulation: covers strategies to understand, manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: consists of techniques to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect and strengthens relationships.

Modes of DBT Treatment

  • Individual Psychotherapy
  • 24/7 Phone Coaching
  • DBT Group Skills Training
  • Consultation Team for Therapists

Sample Skills & Strategies

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is gaining recognition for helping more widespread populations manage less acute symptoms.

Wise Mind

The synthesis of rational and emotional mind, or, as DBT founder, Marsha Linehan states, “that part of each person that can know and experience truth.”

Walking the Middle Path

Kids and parents learn how to validate one another, compromise and negotiate and see the other person’s side of things. Rather than, “I’m right and you’re wrong,”

Middle Path acknowledges multiple truths.


Stop – Freeze! Don’t move a muscle. Don’t just react to a situation.
Take a step back – Take a break. Let go. Take a deep breath. Do not let your feelings make you act impulsively.
Observe – Notice what is going on inside and outside you. What is the situation? What are your thoughts and feelings? What are others saying or doing?
Proceed mindfully – Use Wise Mind above to act with awareness.


Helpful at the height of a crisis.

Temperature change, Intense exercise, Paced breathing and Paired muscle relaxation. Change body chemistry by submerging face in cold water. Even brief intense exercise blasts negative energy and produces endorphins. Slow, deep breaths and tensing and relaxing muscles bring about calm.


Imagery – imagine the situation being resolved positively. Meaning – find purpose in an unpleasant situation. Prayer – think about something larger than yourself. Relaxation – take deep breaths; focus on one neutral activity. Vacation – take a mental or physical break. Encouragement – be kind to yourself.

Download a PDF of this infographic.

CHC is here for you. Sign up for the CHC Virtual Village to receive weekly email updates about upcoming news, events and resources related to your interests.

A screening can help you determine if you or someone you care about should contact a mental health professional. Care Coordinators can arrange a free 30 minute Care Consultation so you can explore options with an expert. Call or email our Care Coordinators at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up an initial Consultation appointment.

You might also be interested in these library resources:

Tags: , , , , , , , ,