There are hundreds of different types of therapy, and many counselling services are able to offer their clients a few options. One type of counselling that is little-known but that can be incredibly useful--and even life-changing--for those in its target demographic is called 'dialectical behaviour therapy', or DBT. If you've never heard of it, you're not alone! Read on to learn more about who it's for, how it works and what you might get out of it.

Who was DBT designed for?

DBT was primarily designed for the treatment of individuals with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It's one of the few treatments shown to be useful in minimising the symptoms of the disorder, which can have an overwhelming negative influence on the people who suffer from it and on those around them.

Other patients are sometimes also referred to DBT-trained counselors, however. The therapy has been indicated as an effective treatment for bulimia in some cases, for example, and some patients report success from the treatment for personality disorders other than BPD.

What are DBT's main aims?

It's theorised that the core 'issue' of borderline personality disorder is an inability to regulate one's emotions in the way that most individuals do. DBT takes a direct approach to regulating this problem by trying to teach the people who take it firstly how to accept their emotions (rather than the massive, wholesale rejection of them that can often lead to a BDP meltdown) and then how to change your behaviour in reaction to them.

What happens during a course of DBT?

People undergoing DBT will have two sessions of therapy per week. The first will be a one-on-one session with a counsellor, and that course of therapy will work through several stages: the counsellor and their client will look at any self-injurious behaviour before moving on to behaviours likely to interfere with the course of therapy (such as a tendency not to show up to appointments or to be untruthful with mental health professionals). Next, they'll discuss how to improve quality of life and how to work on self-confidence and self-image.

The real core of DBT, however, is in the second session--which is a group therapy session led by a counsellor and comprised of multiple individuals currently undergoing a course of DBT. At these sessions the four main "modules" of DBT are taught, and clients are able to discuss their problems with others who might sympathise with them in a non-judgemental environment. This can be especially useful for those BPD sufferers who feel themselves to be overly self-absorbed.

Which professionals can offer DBT?

Any member of a "helping profession"--including nurses, social workers and counsellors are able to get training in DBT and acquire the credentials necessary to administer it. If you're interested in receiving the therapy from your counsellor, ask them if they have completed a course in it, such as the Centre for Mental Health Education's Comprehensive Training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, and make sure before you begin that they have a recognised accreditation in the therapy such as the CfMHE's DBT Clinician Credentialing.