DBT Therapists: What Type of Training Do They Receive?

If you’re looking for a therapist who can use Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to help you or a loved one learn how to replace maladaptive thoughts or actions with more productive, healthy behaviors, you want to find one who is specially trained in DBT therapy.  

Therapists who have received the most comprehensive DBT training may not only be the most knowledgeable, but also tend to follow treatment protocol more closely. So what type of training do DBT therapists receive so that they’re qualified to practice DBT treatment? 

DBT Therapist Background  

Therapists who decide to pursue training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Many hold master’s- and doctoral-level degrees, and have some type of professional licensure.

They may work in private practice settings, in addition to community mental health centers, DBT residential treatment centers, or DBT outpatient treatment centers. Many therapists incorporate DBT into the techniques already used in their typical therapy approach. However, this is not considered DBT-adherent therapy.  

DBT Therapist Training: Where 

If you are looking for a DBT therapist, you want to make sure they have received extensive training from a reputable training organization. Behavioral Tech, Marsha Linehan’s training institute, is best when it comes to receiving DBT training. Behavioral Tech provides several levels and intensities of DBT training based on the protocols that Linehan created when she developed DBT.    

DBT training is also provided through local organizations and universities, such as the University of California, Los Angeles Harbor Hospital DBT training program. 

Training can be anywhere from a few days to a week, and a DBT therapist will often participate in more than one training to further their ability to provide good treatment. 

Ask the DBT therapist you are considering where they received their training to make sure you are getting the best treatment possible. 

DBT Training: What  

You may be wondering why the process of getting trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy is so intensive and what a therapist is gaining skills in. Therapists learn to emphasize the importance of change for the patient, yet do so while balancing this with acceptance. The use of these “dialectical strategies” helps both the therapist and patient to effectively maneuver and progress through the treatment process. 

A true DBT-adherent treatment program is made up of several components: 

  • Individual DBT therapy
  • DBT skills training groups
  • Phone coaching
  • Homework assignments
  • DBT consultation teams 

A DBT therapist will learn the four DBT skills – mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance – and how to effectively teach them to their patients, both individually and in groups, so that they can make lasting changes. Part of this teaching involves homework assignments that the DBT therapist will help their patients work on. Diary cards, on which patients record their thoughts and experiences during the day to later discuss with their therapist, are also a big part of DBT. 

DBT therapists often join a DBT consultation team that allows them to meet with other trained therapists to get support and enhance their DBT skills. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy can be an extremely effective way to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and other psychiatric disorders. Finding a therapist who is intensively trained in DBT and practices DBT is the first step toward getting the help you or your loved one need.

Tags: Behavioral Tech, dbt therapists, dbt therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Marsha Linehan


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