DBT Therapy: The Evidence

If you’re familiar with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), you’ve probably heard that it’s an evidence-based treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). But what exactly is this evidence, and why is it so important?

The Evidence Behind DBT Therapy

The evidence behind DBT therapy comes from numerous studies that determined its effectiveness for treating Borderline Personality Disorder. Many of the studies were done in conjunction with Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT, though studies have been done independently of her as well.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded two of the original studies that found DBT therapy to be more effective than other forms of treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as BPD and co-occurring substance abuse. These studies showed that DBT therapy results in fewer hospitalizations and better global and social adjustment. For people with co-occurring substance abuse, DBT therapy was found to be more effective than other forms of treatment at reducing drug abuse.

Concurrent studies on DBT therapy and Borderline Personality Disorder discovered the following:

  • DBT therapy can significantly reduce depression, anger, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation.
  • DBT therapy has been shown to decrease episodes of self-harm and self-mutilation.
  • People with BPD who are undergoing DBT therapy are less likely to drop out of treatment.
  • DBT therapy can significantly reduce BPD symptoms, as well as general psychiatric symptoms. 

Research and trials conducted on DBT therapy have found it to be effective for treating not just Borderline Personality Disorder, but a variety of other disorders – and successfully. Here are some of the results of studies conducted on DBT therapy:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy can significantly decrease the binging and purging behaviors displayed by people with bulimia.
  • For Binge Eating Disorder treatment, DBT therapy can decrease the number of binge episodes and binge days, while helping people struggling with this eating disorder to abstain from binging in the long-term. DBT therapy can also help to maintain a lower weight.
  • DBT therapy can help to reduce drug use in people addicted to opiates.
  • DBT therapy can be effective for decreasing the symptoms of depression and teaching better coping skills.

Studies continue to be done on DBT therapy and its effectiveness in treating Borderline Personality Disorder and other psychiatric disorders.

Why Is Evidence Important?

Without the evidence, there would be nothing to support the effectiveness of such therapies as Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Research and clinical studies done on people with specific disorders provide proof that treatments work for a targeted population. They may also find that treatments do not work as well as anticipated for certain populations, meaning your treatment team won’t be wasting their time – or yours – attempting to treat you with the wrong type of therapy.

DBT therapy isn’t the only type of evidence-based treatment out there. Depending on what you are receiving treatment for, you want to make sure that you are being treated using an evidence-based treatment such as DBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Doing this will give you the best chance at a long-term recovery and assurance that you are being treated using the best available methods.

Tags: Borderline Personality Disorder, dbt therapy, evidence-based, Marsha Linehan

5 Responses to “DBT Therapy: The Evidence”

  1. Mar Ezequelle, LCSW Nov 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    I am interested in training in Colo., particularly since I live in Western CO. Do you offer any on-line courses?

    • ClearviewTreatment Nov 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

      We don’t offer any online courses, but some of the DBT training organizations do. Check with Behavioral Tech and Treatment Implementation Collaborative.


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