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Dialectical Behavioural Therapy Calgary

Research has shown that DBT has a much wider application and is effective for several conditions including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorders, eating disorders, self-destructive behaviours, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


DBT is based on the principle of dialectics - by integrating and finding a balance between opposites. The main dialectic of DBT is acceptance and change, intending to find a balance in between.


Therapeutic Models of DBT

DBT therapeutic focus consists of four modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness.

1. Distress Tolerance skills allow you to cope better in stressful or painful situations. The focus is on building up your resilience to deal with distress. By building up skills to distract, self-soothe, relax and accept, you are better able to cope with your overwhelming emotions. 


2. Mindfulness is learning to “live in the moment”. The focus is on being present, mindful and accepting. Mindfulness is achieved by bringing awareness to your thoughts, emotions, sensations and actions. Also, mindfulness is being able to hold a non-judgmental perspective. By slowing you down and creating calmness, it can reduce negative thoughts and impulsive behaviours.


3. Emotional regulation is learning to identify, recognize, manage and change our emotions

We learn to not allow our emotions to overwhelm us which reduces the likelihood of impulsive or destructive reactions. 


4. Interpersonal effectiveness is understanding our beliefs and needs and expressing them to others healthily and respectfully. We also learn to set appropriate boundaries where necessary. Interpersonal effectiveness includes social skills, assertiveness, and listening, and negotiation skills. By improving our interpersonal effectiveness we are better able to maintain and improve our relationships.

What Can I Expect During DBT

DBT can be delivered in several methods

  • Individual Therapy

  • Group Setting

  • Phone Coaching

  • Any combination thereof

The particular delivery of DBT varies and is dependent on the client, therapist and situation 


In individual counselling sessions, you will work one-on-one with your therapist to address concerns, create goals and outline a plan of action. Your therapist will support and motivate you as you learn DBT skills and techniques which can be applied to real-life situations. 


In DBT groups, participants learn and practice skills with one another. Members learn from the experience of their peers and are there to offer one another support. Groups are lead by a trained therapist who will teach skills and lead exercises. The therapist may assign homework to complete at home. 

Phone coaching involves patients calling the therapist in between sessions to receive guidance in situations of crisis. Phone sessions are to aid clients in regulating emotions and applying skills in real-life situations.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy FAQs

What is covered in this type of therapy?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a specific form of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

  • DBT deals primarily with the opposing concepts of acceptance and change.
  • DBT is most effective in improving coping skills, increasing mindfulness, regulating emotions and improving relationship skills.
DBT can be delivered in the following formats:
  • Individual therapy
  • Group settings
  • Phone Coaching

What are the benefits of DBT?

  • Improved ability to regulate emotions
  • Improved ability to tolerate distress
  • Remain mindful and present
  • Communicate and interact better with others
  • Improve relationships

How does it work?

DBT has four therapeutic modules: distress tolerance, mindfulness emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness

  • Distress tolerance is learning how to better cope with stressful/painful situations
  • Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment
  • Emotional regulation is identifying, managing and changing our emotions and reactions
  • Interpersonal effectiveness is expressing our needs appropriately, establish boundaries and developing better relationship skills

How can we help?

DBT is used by Gavin as an adjunct therapy to other therapies including CBT, ACT, and Mindfulness. Gavin uses DBT to support individuals dealing with anger/emotional issues in addition to more clinical issues such as depression/suicide, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, and work related issues.

What are the Clinical Concerns if any?

  • Due to the nature of DBT being focused on emotions, it can be overwhelming and unpleasant
  • For clients with PTSD, DBT may elicit flashbacks.
  • DBT is one of the most demanding forms of therapy and requires a great investment of time
  • DBT can create agitation, frustration and fatigue

When should this kind of therapy should be applied?

DBT is beneficial to those who:

  • Have severe and complex issues
  • Have overwhelming emotions
  • Have difficulties with regulating emotions
  • Have extreme positions and opinions

DBT was originally developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder, however, research has supported that DBT can also be used to treat:
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Self Destructive Behaviours
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorders

What steps can clients take to ensure this method is most effective?

  • Have a general idea of your presenting concerns
  • Be highly motivated to participate to engage in therapy
  • Be willing to collaborate with setting goals and a plan of action
  • Be prepared to learn and practice new skills and techniques
  • If appropriate, clients must be prepared to learn, participate and practice in a group environment

Get Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) in Calgary

If you are unsure whether we can meet your counselling or assessment needs give us a call to receive a free consultation. You can then decide whether we are a good fit for you or your family.