Principles of DBT

Therapy is based on the following unalterable principles:

Mutual Trust

Clients need to trust that their therapist has made a commitment to work with them and will actually be available to them within the terms of their agreement.  Similarly therapists need to trust that clients will maintain their commitment to therapy. Each party is responsible for maintaining that trust.


Clients commit to the goal of safety towards self and others. If there are concerns this cannot happen, therapists will assist clients in creating a clear safety plan that specifies the steps they, or others, need to take to ensure safety. Active pursuit of harmful behaviors to self or others robs clients of the chance to remain committed to the current therapy goals and to learn more helpful ways of dealing with problems in life.  By agreeing to do their best to keep themselves and others safe, clients can have a better chance of applying the principles of DBT to their lives. All participants in DBT therapy are expected to act in a way that does not endanger their therapist, family, or others (e.g., through threats or acts of violence against people or property).  Such behavior may result in legal consequences or risk termination of therapy.

Skills Training

Skills training is a central part of DBT. During the period of therapy, clients will be expected to participate in learning DBT skills through individual therapy, skills group, and telephone coaching.  DBT Skills group meets for 24 weeks. An optional DBT Graduate Group is also available for those who have completed skills training and wish to deepen their skills. 

Role of Therapist or Other Providers

DBT makes a distinction between the roles of other providers and the DBT individual therapist. DBT individual therapists and DBT Skills Group facilitators will be seeking consultation on their work with clients through their consultation team.

The Ultimate Goal of Having a Life Worth Living

The ultimate goal of DBT is to no longer need therapy. Therefore, as clients become more competent with their skills, and strive toward a life worth living, this will result in a decrease in the need for and dependency on therapists. Although clients and therapists will have developed strong and positive therapeutic relationships, these are meant to be temporary and that is the goal. If this is not happening, there is something wrong, and consultation will be sought by the therapist.