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  • Tate Goss

The Power of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

While going through my social work program, I had an internship at a facility that provided care for individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. These individuals struggle with intense mood swings, behavioral issues, and difficulties creating and maintaining healthy relationships. Often, individuals can struggle with the energy and desire to want live. In the 1980’s a clinical psychologist by the name of Marsha Linehan created a unique intervention to help these individuals and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) was created. For Linehan, it is about “creating a live worth living.” I know this to be true in my own professional work.

DBT holds a special place in my heart. It is a powerful tool that I have seen transform the lives of many and it has many healing powers. It navigates on the assumption that we are all doing the best we can, all the time, every day. This perspective gives us grace with our daily struggles and offers space for us to continue growing.


So, what exactly is DBT? It’s a skills-based therapeutic intervention that consists of four modules:


1. Mindfulness skills which help a person be more present in the moment which assists in dealing with difficult emotions and problem solving.

2. Distress Tolerance skills are focused on building coping skills to assist in dealing with daily stressors or triggers

3. Emotion Regulation skills is focused on understanding our emotions and why we have them. With this understanding, we can take back control of our emotions when we feel out of control.

4. Interpersonal effectiveness skills are focused on effective communication and how to maintain and deepen our relationships.


Even though DBT was initially created to help people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, research has shown these skills can be helpful to anyone. It can help with depression, anxiety, anger, and addiction. DBT allows us to understand ourselves in a deeper way and helps us build intimacy with ourselves and others. The main focus and overall goal of DBT is “creating a life worth living”, and isn’t that what we all want? To find purpose and meaning, to feel a deep connection with ourselves and the world around us.


“It is hard to be happy without a life worth living. This is a fundamental tenet of DBT. Of course, all lives are worth living in reality. No life is not worth living. But what is important is that you experience your life as worth living—one that is satisfying, and one that brings happiness.”

--Marsha Linehan


By: Tate Goss

LMSW, RADC-P

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