Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a therapy designed to help people suffering from personality disorders. It has also been used to treat mood disorders as well as those who need to change patterns of behavior that are not helpful, such as self-harm, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse. This approach works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help avoid undesired reactions. DBT assumes that people are doing their best but lack the skills needed to succeed, or are influenced by positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement that interferes with their ability to function appropriately.
A modified form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), DBT was developed in the late 1980s by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington, to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and chronically suicidal individuals. Research on its effectiveness in treating other conditions has been fruitful; DBT is now used in a variety of psychological treatments including treatment for traumatic brain injuries (TBI), eating disorders, and mood disorders. Research indicates that DBT might have some effect on patients who present varied symptoms and behaviors associated with spectrum mood disorders, including self-injury. Recent work also suggests its effectiveness with sexual abuse survivors and chemical dependency.