Dialectical behavior therapy as treatment for borderline personality disorder

Ment Health Clin. 2016 Mar 8;6(2):62-67. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2016.03.62. eCollection 2016 Mar.


Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a structured outpatient treatment developed by Dr Marsha Linehan for the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Dialectical behavior therapy is based on cognitive-behavioral principles and is currently the only empirically supported treatment for BPD. Randomized controlled trials have shown the efficacy of DBT not only in BPD but also in other psychiatric disorders, such as substance use disorders, mood disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders. Traditional DBT is structured into 4 components, including skills training group, individual psychotherapy, telephone consultation, and therapist consultation team. These components work together to teach behavioral skills that target common symptoms of BPD, including an unstable sense of self, chaotic relationships, fear of abandonment, emotional lability, and impulsivity such as self-injurious behaviors. The skills include mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. Given the often comorbid psychiatric symptoms with BPD in patients participating in DBT, psychopharmacologic interventions are oftentimes considered appropriate adjunctive care. This article aims to outline the basic principles of DBT as well as comment on the role of pharmacotherapy as adjunctive treatment for the symptoms of BPD.

Keywords: borderline personality disorder; dialectical behavior therapy; psychotherapy; third term.