MEEHL Foundation

Residential Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

What is DBT


What is DBT therapy?  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a well-researched, scientifically proven therapy for some mood and personality disorders, having up to an 87% success rate.  This comprehensive treatment approach helps people who have difficulty in regulating their emotions. This often results in a high degree of impulsive reactivity, self-destructive behaviors, and volatile relationships with others in their lives.

DBT has been successful in helping to treat Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Depression, and Anxiety. DBT has also shown impressive success in patients who suffer with eating disorders, severe addictions, OCD, and other complexes.

Who can benefit from DBT?

Developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. at the University of Washington in the early 1990’s, DBT was originally designed as an innovative and integrative treatment for suicidal and actively self-harming patients with a history of multiple psychiatric hospitalizations who met criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Because of its success in treating this patient population, DBT has gained in popularity and has been used to treat a broader range patients who present with many of the characteristics listed below.

  •  a tendency towards impulsivity and self-destructive behaviors
  •  an unstable sense of self, including chronic feelings of emptiness
  •  high emotional reactivity requiring a long time to calm down
  •  a tendency to see others and the world in black and white terms
  •  extremely sensitive and can lash out in anger over the slightest miscue
  •  unstable relationships, especially those involving intimacy
  •  a pronounced fear of being abandoned
  •  rapid mood changes with mixed anxiety and depression

How does DBT work?

DBT separates skills training from individual psychotherapy, requiring participants to attend weekly skills training groups in addition to being in ongoing and weekly psychotherapy. As a unique and powerful way to reinforce the skills taught in groups, telephone coaching with a trained DBT therapist is available between group sessions.

One of the key assumptions of DBT is that while we may not have caused all of our problems, we are the only ones capable and responsible for fixing them. This requires a continual willingness on the part of DBT participants to put in the hard work necessary for making the changes they want in order to create lives worth living. Because of the personal dedication, sacrifice and effort required to successfully complete our DBT program, applicants are required to complete a DBT Orientation and Commitment class before being eligible for admission into a DBT skills group.

DBT pre-treatment requirements:

Initial intake interview(s) to determine eligibility and readiness for DBT skills training.

  •  Agreements with individual therapist and groups skills leaders, including insurance reimbursement and releases of information, reviewed and signed.

Skills Modules taught in DBT 

  •  Core Mindfulness – being present and non-judgmentally aware in the moment
  •  Distress Tolerance – managing difficult feelings without acting impulsively
  •  Emotion Regulation – learning to skillfully use or change emotions •
  •  Interpersonal Effectiveness –relating skillfully with others

DBT assumptions about participants:

  • People in DBT are doing the best they can.
  • People in DBT want to improve.
  • People in DBT need to do better, to work harder, and be motivated to change.
  • The lives of suicidal individuals are unbearable as they are currently being lived.
  • People in DBT must learn new behaviors in all areas of their lives.
  • People cannot fail in DBT.

DBT assumptions about therapists :

  • All therapists, no matter how well trained, are fallible.
  • We make every reasonable effort to conduct competent and effective therapy.
  • We obey standard ethical and professional guidelines.
  •  We are available for weekly therapy sessions, phone consultations, and provide needed therapy back-up.
  •  We respect the integrity and rights of the patient.
  •  We maintain confidentiality.
  •  We meet regularly to obtain consultation and support to be effective in the work we do.

Targets of DBT treatment: (in order of priority)

  • Decreasing high-risk suicidal and self-harming behaviors
  • Decreasing therapy interfering behaviors by either therapist or patient
  • Decreasing quality of life interfering behaviors
  • Learning and mastering behavioral skills for mood-independent life choices
  • Decreasing symptoms related post-traumatic stress, other anxiety, and depression • Enhancing and sustaining self-respect
  • Additional goals set by patient to create a life worth living

Stages of DBT treatment:

Stage One

  • Decreasing or eliminating life-threatening behaviors (suicide attempts, suicidal thinking, self-injury, homicidal and aggressive behaviors)
  •  Decreasing or eliminating therapy-interfering behaviors (missing sessions, not doing homework, behaving in a way that burns others out)
  •  Reducing or eliminating hospitalization as a way of handling crisis
  • Decreasing behaviors that interfere with the quality of life (eating disorders, not going to work or school, addiction, chronic unemployment)
  •  Increasing behaviors that will enable the person to have a life worth living
  • Increasing behavioral skills that help to build relationships, manage emotions and deal effectively with various life problems

Stage Two

  •  Continuing and building on Stage One skills
  •  Targeting and decreasing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other Anxiety or Depression related symptoms

Stage Three

  •  Increasing love and respect for self and others
  • Affirming individual life goals
  • Solving ordinary life problems

Stage Four

  •  Developing the capacity for freedom and joy
  • Creating a life worth living!

DBT Intensive Program 90 Day Residency

Residents stay at The Meehl House for 90 days, depending on their personal situation, needs and mental health. Prior to leaving The Meehl House, our staffs works with family members, local psychiatrists, therapists and community resources to allow for a continuum of care.

As extended members of our family, residents continue to have access to all of the members of The Meehl House team after they return home. For more information about staying at The Meehl House, contact us today.



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Debra Meehl

Debra Meehl, DD Pastoral Counselor, DBT Trained Skills Trainer, Board Certified Hypnotist & President, Meehl Foundation Intenselevly Tained DBT Team

Speaking Engagements
Texas TAAP Convention-San Antonio, TX
August 15, 2014 (11:00am-12:30am)
West Coast Symposium- Cape Cod
Bipolar Borderline & Substance Abuse
Sept, 13, 2014 (10:45am-12:15am)
NAADAC- Seattle, WA
Radical Acceptance-Getting to the root of the problem
September 28,2014 (1:30pm-3:00pm)
NASW-Texas State Conference
Bipolar Borderline & Substance Abuse
San Marcos, TX October 18, 2014 (2:30pm-4:00pm)
NASW-Atlanta, GA State Conference
Using DBT Therapy for Mood Disorders and SA October 23, 2014 (9:00am-12:15)
Radical Acceptance-getting to the root of the problem
October 24th, 2014 (1:30pm -3pm)
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