DBT Program Spotlight

“What is DBT?”


Developed in the late 1980’s, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) was originally designed to treat clients with Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s also been found effective in treating clients with substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, depression and those who self-harm – anyone experiencing difficulty in controlling intense emotions.  

Michelle Whitford is the team leader for Amelia’s DBT Program and was one of the first original practitioners trained in the therapy at GCB over ten years ago.  She was treating Katie, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, with traditional therapy at the time. “Katie is one of the first clients to have completed the program,” says Michelle, “and she’s also an amazing example of how well it can work.”

A combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy, the goal of DBT is to transform negative thinking patterns and destructive behaviors into positive outcomes. The result can be less need for hospitalization, therapy, medication and care management. 

Mindfulness – the ability to accept and be in the present moment, is the foundation of the program which involves four consecutive stages over a span of approximately six months worth of individual as well as group therapy.

Education on how a balanced diet and regular exercise can help to regulate emotions is an example of a learned coping skill, as well as tricks on how to encourage mindfulness when obsessing about something in the past or future.

 “What’s really most challenging,” says Michelle,” is learning the new concept of radical acceptance.  Which means being able to be completely OK with the way things are, right now.”

The program isn’t easy.  Homework and diligent daily journaling requires a serious effort and a real commitment.  At least 50 percent of those who enroll fail to finish.  “They have to be ready to accept and learn something new,” says Michelle.

“But stick it out,” says Katie, “and it will reconfigure your life.”