10 Therapists weigh in on DBT and its effectiveness

Seeking help is the first step on the road to recovery. We all face various challenges throughout our lives and, while there are many different ways to tackle problems, DBT skills have been proven to be remarkably effective time and time again.  

It’s not enough to simply attend DBT sessions to successfully manage your symptoms and improve your life. You need to work on everything you learn and use the skills you develop in everyday life. If you just show up, you’re missing out on what could be your best opportunity to turn your life around.

We compiled tips on DBT skills from ten therapists who specialize in the treatment.

6 Main points of DBT therapy >>

Cory Wegesa 

“Be your own cheerleader! Support and encourage yourself to keep pushing through. Remind yourself that you’ve made a commitment to improve. You’re invested in your growth or you wouldn’t have made it this far.

Tell yourself that you can do this when times are hard. Also remember to celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Every step forward is a step closer to your goal. If you give yourself credit for your achievements, you’ll be more motivated moving forward.” 


Cory Wegesa is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in family, group, and individual therapy with families, children, and adolescents. She has more than 15 years of experience working with people struggling to cope with depression, anxiety, trauma, and tough family situations. 


“It’s a good idea to set a goal for yourself that no matter how you feel mentally on the day of the group, you will show up. In doing so, you’ll be practicing the DBT skill of ‘opposite action’, a skill that can transfer to other areas of your life and be very helpful for completing tasks when you don’t feel like it.

It is also helpful for shifting moods or emotions that you want to change. I often find that on the days I least felt like showing up, I ended up getting the most out of the group.” https://www.my-borderline-personality-disorder.com/2012/07/6-ways-to-get-the-most-out-of-dbt-dialectical-behavior-therapy.html

Debbie is a DBT skills teacher and coach. In 2010, she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and used DBT skills to manage her symptoms and overcome her disorder. Today she helps people around the world develop DBT skills through online courses.

Paul Greene

“Practice tensing your muscles as you breathe in for 5-6 seconds. Notice that feeling. Then relax them as you breathe out, paying attention to how that feels as you do it. Notice the difference between the feeling of tension and the feeling of relaxation. Go through each muscle group in the body and tense then relax each one. As you relax a muscle group, say to yourself, ‘relax’.”


Paul is the director of the Manhattan Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. He’s an expert at treating PTSD, OCD, overeating, depression, health anxiety, and panic attacks. He specializes in helping people who’ve survived rapes, assaults, and accidents that cause posttraumatic anxiety.

Rachel Roos Pokorney

“When you notice you are really upset about something, ask yourself: “Is this really worth it?”, “Is anything here actually in my control?”, or “Is my reaction making this situation better for myself?” (hint: the answer is usually no).” https://www.anxiety.org/dialectical-behavioral-therapy-dbt-simple-tips-steps

Rachel is a licensed clinical social worker trained in DBT by Andre Ivanoff, the president of Behavioral Tech and Director of the DBT training program at Columbia University. She specializes in using evidence-based therapy techniques to help people manage their symptoms so they can achieve their goals.  

Renee Hoekstra

“Try to remember that being able to accept the next 10 minutes is not the same as accepting your life. If you can be accepting for the next 10 minutes, then right now you don’t have to accept fate, hopelessness, or any foreboding feelings that this is the way things will be forever.” https://reneehoekstra.com/what-you-can-do-in-the-next-10-minutes-the-skill-of-radical-acceptance/

Renee Hoekstra was inspired to become a licensed clinical psychologist after receiving counseling herself in high school. She takes a creative approach in her treatment, looking at mindfulness from different perspectives and incorporating her own material to help people solve their problems. Renee Hoekstra is all about radical acceptance.

Jeanette Lorandini

“Distress tolerance skills are meant to help people get through stressful or catastrophic events without turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like self-harm or substance abuse. 

Depending on the severity of the situation, you can distract yourself by reading a book, playing a video game, or physically leaving the location to call a friend or go on a run. The point is to give your working memory a break from processing heavy information until you calm down.”


Jeanette is the owner and director of Suffolk DBT. She uses effective DBT skills in her own life and teaches others how to use them to help parents and children thrive together. She strives to create a safe, accepting, and compassionate environment for her staff and clients.

Kevin Rowen

“From a DBT perspective, gratitude can help us think more dialectically about our lives. Even on bad days, our ability to find something small to be thankful for reminds us that life is not ALL bad… and this is of course easier said than done. On bad days, it is usually a lot harder to think of something for which we are thankful. If we can find just a glimmer of something to be thankful for on that day and hold space for that small slice of peace alongside the pain, it can reduce some of the extra suffering that you may be holding onto on top of the pain.” https://www.dbtcenteroc.com/gratitude-a-journey/ 

Kevin is a DBT program clinician and skills facilitator at DBT Center of Orange County. He was introduced to DBT while in graduate school and found it to be a natural fit for his outlook on life and therapy. He’s passionate about using DBT to create a roadmap for addressing everyday struggles.

Erin Iwanusa

“Use imagery to help you cope. You can imagine yourself in a safe place. You can imagine yourself coping with the difficult situation you’re experiencing in an effective way. You can imagine a place that makes you feel happy. Any images that help you feel safe and calm.” – https://www.taproottherapynyc.com/blog-dialectical-behavior-therapy-skills

Erin is the founder and clinical director of Taproot Therapy. As a licensed clinical social worker, she specializes in depression, anxiety, OCD, fertility, grief, and loss. She has extensive training in DBT and CBT and has also trained in mindfulness-based practices.

Liz Hughes

“Saying something should have happened does not change the reality of what is happening right now, it denies it and leaves you arguing with the past. It might even bring up some shame of not following through on things you wanted to do. ‘I should have called my mom today’ does not change that I did not call her. Try accepting reality as it is instead and make a plan to take action in the future.”


Liz is a licensed professional counselor at Mind Body Therapy. She specializes in helping people navigate through first-generation struggles, chronic worrying, depression, grief, trauma, exhausting parenting, and everything in between. She uses DBT to encourage people to manage their painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships.

Courtney E. Ackerman

“If your mind has you jumping on the thought train (i.e., one thought leads to another, which often leads to a “should” thought, which can lead to judgment), try to detach yourself from the thought by telling yourself about the thought you are having (e.g., ‘There’s a thought about the errand I need to run after work’). 

This can help you refocus on your current practice and remind yourself that you have thoughts, but you are not your thoughts.” https://positivepsychology.com/dbt-dialectical-behavior-therapy/ 

Courtney holds a master of arts in positive organizational psychology from Claremont Graduate University and is the author of seven psychology books. She focuses on the gray area between application and theory, providing practical, evidence-based information to the people who need it.

Deciding to get yourself the help you deserve is a big step in the right direction. Follow that initial, positive step with even more by getting the most out of your DBT sessions. Concentrate on getting a solid grasp on the DBT skills you learn, practice them until they become second nature, then use them in your everyday life. It won’t be easy, but the changes you’ll experience will make it worth it.

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741