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Yes, DBT Can Help You Cope With PTSD

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) teaches people how to cope with past traumas. Learn more about the benefits of DBT for PTSD.


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How DBT treats PTSD

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an effective treatment for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). DBT is based on the principles of mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. In DBT, people learn specific skills to cope with the symptoms of PTSD, such as managing intense emotions and distressing memories, improving their ability to tolerate discomfort, and enhancing their interpersonal relationships. DBT also helps people develop a better understanding of their PTSD symptoms and how to change their thoughts and behaviors and improve their overall quality of life.

Skills taught in DBT for PTSD 

Skills taught in DBT for PTSD are as follows:


This DBT skill teaches people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment without judgment. By developing this skill, a person can better cope with PTSD symptoms and decrease their overall distress.

Distress tolerance

Distress tolerance skills help people with PTSD tolerate and survive crisis situations without resorting to maladaptive coping techniques. This could include using distraction techniques or self-soothing activities to manage overwhelming emotions often experienced with PTSD.

Emotion regulation

 Emotion regulation skills aim to help people identify and understand their emotions, as well as learn how to effectively manage and change them. By learning these skills, a person can better control their emotional responses to PTSD triggers.

Interpersonal effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness skills are aimed at helping people communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintain self-respect, and strengthen relationships. It can be particularly helpful for managing the impact of PTSD on one’s relationships and social interactions.

Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring involves challenging and changing negative thought patterns and beliefs. This skill is valuable for addressing the distorted thinking often associated with PTSD and can help shift a person’s perspective on their traumatic experiences.

Grounding techniques

Grounding techniques focus on grounding a person in the present moment, helping to reduce the intensity of PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks or dissociation. These techniques can include using the five senses to connect with the environment and promote a sense of safety.


Self-compassion involves treating oneself with kindness and understanding, especially in the face of suffering. This skill is important for individuals with PTSD as it can help to counteract self-blame and reduce feelings of shame associated with trauma.

Benefits of DBT for PTSD 

DBT can have significant long-term benefits for people with PTSD. Research has shown that DBT can help people cope with the symptoms of PTSD and improve their overall mental health and quality of life. By learning skills for managing emotions, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness, people can develop healthier coping strategies and have better long-term outcomes in their recovery from PTSD.

How quickly does DBT work for PTSD? 

As mentioned, research suggests that DBT can be effective in treating symptoms of PTSD in some people. However, it is important to note that the speed at which DBT works for PTSD can vary from person to person. While some may experience significant improvement in symptoms relatively quickly, others may require a longer period of time in therapy to see the same results. Overall, the effectiveness of DBT for PTSD is dependent on the individual and their unique experiences and needs.

How is medication used to treat PTSD?

Medication is often used to treat people with PTSD. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to help manage symptoms like anxiety and depression. There are also other medications that may be used to address nightmares and sleep disturbance. People with PTSD may also be given anti-anxiety medications to help with short-term relief from symptoms. Additionally, atypical antipsychotics can be prescribed for individuals who experience severe mood swings or disassociation. Overall, medication can be a crucial part of managing the symptoms of PTSD and improving the quality of life for people affected by the disorder.

Other types of treatments for PTSD 

In addition to DBT and medication, some other types of treatments for PTSD are as follows: 

Exposure therapy

This therapy involves gradually exposing the person to their traumatic experience in a safe and controlled environment, helping them to process and cope with the memories and emotions associated with the trauma.

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)

CPT focuses on helping the person challenge and change their negative thought patterns and beliefs about a traumatic event, ultimately reducing the emotional distress and symptoms associated with PTSD.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

This therapy involves the person recalling their traumatic memories while simultaneously engaging in specific bilateral eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation, which can help to desensitize and reprocess the traumatic memories, reducing their impact on the person’s daily life.

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT)

TF-CBT combines cognitive behavioral techniques with trauma-focused interventions to help the person process their traumatic experience, manage their emotions, and develop coping skills to reduce their symptoms of PTSD.

Intensive outpatient program for PTSD 

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is used to treat PTSD when the person requires more structured and intensive support than traditional outpatient therapy. It is often recommended for people who experience severe symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and hyperarousal and need more frequent therapy sessions and support. IOP typically involves a combination of individual and group therapy, as well as specialized treatments such as DBT and EMDR. This type of program allows the person to receive intensive treatment while still being able to live at home and continue with their daily responsibilities.

DBT PTSD treatment at Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 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 PTSD. Our expert clinicians incorporate dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) into individual therapy, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic depression treatment, managing PTSD is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start PTSD treatment today. 

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