a What is DBT Skills Group? - Wellness and Wisdom

What is DBT Skills Group?

DBT Skills Training groups are for clients who would like to cope more effectively with intense emotions, addictive behaviors, and/or relationship struggles. DBT Skills are taught to reduce self-destructive behaviors and learn more adaptive ways to manage painful emotions. These skills include:

  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Distress Tolerance 

The DBT Skills Group Process

DBT is a skills/teaching group, not a process group. 

First hour of group:

  • Group leader will review DBT Diary Cards individually with each group member to give coaching, feedback, and observations about skills used in an effective way. 
  • Group members not only benefit from the individual coaching, but by being exposed to hearing how other group members are practicing skills.

Second hour of group:

  • Group goes over one DBT skill  
  • Multiple handouts, homework sheets, experiential exercises, boardwork, and discussion are used as learning tools. 
  • Group members are asked to practice this one skill over the week and to give feedback the following week on how this skill worked for them and what challenges occurred. 
  • The size of each DBT group is limited to a maximum of seven members to ensure enough time for all members to participate. 


All of the DBT skills build on each other. The group lasts a total of 6 months to finish all of the modules (Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance). 

Group members are asked to be able to commit to 6 months of the group therapy, which meets once a week, before joining the group. 

However, research recommends at least a year of skills training for clients to be able to learn, practice, and apply new coping skills to replace their maladaptive coping mechanisms.

At the end of the 6 months, clients may wish to "graduate" the group if they feel satisfied with what they have gotten out of the group, or they can remain in the group until they feel confident in their use of coping skills.  

Adapted from: Fielder-Jenks, C. (April 15, 2013). DBT Spotlight Blog Series: What is DBT? Located at: CFJCounseling.com/blog


Behavioral Tech, LLC. (2013). DBT® Resources: What is DBT?

Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press.

Linehan, M. M. and Dimeff, L. (2001). Dialectical Behavior Therapy in a Nutshell. The California Psychologist, 34, 10-13.

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