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A young woman looks in the mirror as she uses a DBT skill to help manage her BPD.

DBT: A Therapy Created to Treat BPD

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was originally created to help people with BPD manage their emotions and relationships. Learn more about DBT for BPD here.


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How DBT treats BPD

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a talk therapy originally created to help people manage symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD). People living with BPD often struggle with emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, and difficulty in interpersonal relationships. DBT aims to address these challenges by helping people learn skills in emotional regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness. Through individual and group therapy sessions, people are able to develop strategies to cope with intense emotions and improve their relationships. By learning and practicing these skills, people can experience a reduction in symptoms and an improved quality of life.

Skills taught in DBT for BPD 

Skills taught in DBT for BPD are as follows:


This DBT skill involves learning to be present in the moment without judgment or attachment to thoughts and feelings. People with BPD are taught to observe their thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them, which can help reduce impulsivity and emotional reactivity.

Distress tolerance

Distress tolerance skills teach people with BPD how to tolerate intense emotions without engaging in harmful behaviors. People with BPD learn to use coping strategies such as deep breathing, distraction, and self-soothing techniques to manage distressing feelings without acting on them.

Emotion regulation

Emotion regulation skills help individuals understand and manage their emotions more effectively. By learning to identify and label emotions, people with BPD can develop healthier ways of coping with and expressing their feelings, which can reduce mood swings and impulsive behavior.

Interpersonal effectiveness

This DBT skill teaches people how to communicate assertively and set boundaries in their relationships. People with BPD learn to navigate interpersonal conflicts and seek to balance their needs with the needs of others, leading to more satisfying and stable relationships.

Opposite action

Opposite action skills involve learning to act in a way that is opposite to one’s emotional urges. People with BPD learn to identify and challenge maladaptive behavioral patterns, leading to more adaptive and constructive responses to their emotions.

Benefits of DBT for BPD 

Studies have shown that people with BPD who have undergone DBT report experiencing long-term benefits in managing their emotions, reducing self-harm behaviors, and improving their relationships. DBT equips people with the skills to regulate their emotions, increase mindfulness, and effectively interact with others, leading to a more stable and fulfilling life. With the continued use of DBT skills training, people with BPD can experience improved mental health and overall well-being for years to come.

How quickly does DBT work for BPD? 

There is no set time frame for how quickly DBT works for BPD. Some people may see improvements in their symptoms within a few months of starting therapy, while others may take longer to experience significant changes. It is important for a person to be patient and committed to the therapy process, as progress can vary depending on individual circumstances and the severity of their symptoms.

How is medication used to treat BPD?

Medication is often used to treat BPD in conjunction with therapy and other forms of support. Different types of medications can be used to manage the symptoms of the disorder, such as mood stabilizers. Antipsychotic medications may also be prescribed to help with symptoms like paranoia or severe mood swings. In addition, antidepressants can be used to address symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s important for a person with BPD to work closely with a healthcare provider to find the right combination of medications that work best for their symptoms.

Other types of BPD treatment 

In addition to DBT and medication, some other types of BPD treatment are as follows:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on recognizing and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It helps people with BPD identify and challenge their distorted beliefs and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Schema therapy

Schema therapy is a longer-term therapy that focuses on identifying and addressing deeply ingrained patterns and early life experiences that contribute to BPD symptoms. It helps people with BPD develop healthier coping strategies and improve their self-esteem.

Mentalization-based therapy 

Mentalization-based therapy helps people with BPD improve their ability to understand their own thoughts and feelings, as well as those of others. It focuses on enhancing interpersonal relationships and reducing impulsive behaviors.

Intensive outpatient program for BPD 

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are often used to treat BPD when a person requires more structured support than regular outpatient therapy can provide but does not need inpatient care. IOPs typically involve group  sessions, individual therapy, medication management, and DBT skills training. This approach allows people with BPD to receive comprehensive treatment while still being able to maintain their daily routines and responsibilities.

Treatment for BPD at Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with borderline personality disorder (BPD), Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with complex mental health conditions, including BDP and other personality disorders. Our expert clinicians incorporate dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) into individual therapy, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing BPD is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start treatment today.

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