DBT and EMDR Therapy

“I want to work through my difficult stuff, but I’m nervous I’m not ready.”

This is a common phrase I hear from my clients, adults and adolescents alike. Committing to therapy can feel intimidating, especially if you’re nervous about the things that may come up. And when someone talks about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, it can seem especially daunting to let yourself feel the emotions related to difficult memories (learn more about EMDR here and here). Healing often requires learning new skills and different ways of coping with life’s situations. That’s where Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) comes in.




DBT is a modified type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on skill development based on a key dialectic: people can accept themselves as they are and work towards change and improvement. The acceptance and change skills are broken down into four separate modules of DBT: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. DBT was initially developed for symptoms of borderline personality disorder but has been found to be effective for other diagnoses including depression, anxiety, and those who struggle regulating their emotions1. If you’d like to learn more about DBT, check out this video.

Incorporating DBT skills into EMDR treatment can help people feel more prepared with practical skills when they start to feel overwhelmed outside of therapy sessions. The skills are structured, easily applicable, and focus on helping people build a life worth living. Sometimes clients benefit from learning skills prior to reprocessing difficult memories. Other times it can be woven into treatment throughout, especially when underlying trauma or difficult experiences need to be the focus of treatment. For adolescents, DBT can be especially helpful as they often don’t learn this stuff in school!

DBT was initially created as a comprehensive treatment program, but research shows that skills groups as a stand-alone treatment can be effective as well2. Infinite Healing and Wellness offers DBT skills groups for both adults and adolescents, which can be helpful in addition or in preparation for individualized treatment. Contact our main phone number for more information!

1 Hunnicutt Hollenbaugh, K. Michelle, and A. Stephen Lenz. “An Examination of the Effectiveness of Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Groups.” Journal of Counseling & Development, vol. 96, no. 3, 2018, pp. 233–242., https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12198.

2 Valentine, Sarah E., et al. “The Use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training as Stand-Alone Treatment: A Systematic Review of the Treatment Outcome Literature.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol. 71, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1–20. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22114.

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