March 15, 2024

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Groups

Why Group Therapy May Be Most Approachable Form for Men - Men's Journal

Authors: Dr. Christopher Deussing & Sydney Sears

Unlike many modalities, an essential part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is group therapy.

In Levels 1 & 2 DBT, groups mainly focus on skills building, which is different than more traditional process groups where participants are encouraged to explore their experiences in deeper ways.

In DBT groups, clients learn about what skills to apply in certain situations. Participants share how they have (or have not) used skills & how they could have better utilized them.

This aspect of group therapy is significant because hearing from people with similar experiences can profoundly impact an individual. This can give individuals a sense of belonging & the feeling that they are understood. The shared group experience helps participants transition into a familial dynamic, as if their therapy group is a family unit (Deussing, 2023).

In addition to bonding with others, participants can strengthen their individual therapeutic relationship. In DBT, clients frequently see the same therapist for both individual & group sessions, which can build trust, respect, & rapport in a synergistic & compressed way (Deussing, 2023).

There have been many studies determining the efficacy of DBT groups. In one study, researchers compared DBT groups to positive psychotherapy groups. While both were effective, the DBT groups had higher attendance rates & better therapy alliances (Uliaszek, 2016). This research supports the above mentioned hypothesis that DBT groups help build curative therapeutic relationships.

Another study looked at DBT groups compared to standard group therapy for clients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Again, both group types were effective, however clients in the DBT groups had lower attrition rates as well as more improvement in emotional areas like depression, anxiety, irritability, & anger (Soler et al., 2009). This study shows that not only do DBT groups help build the therapeutic bond, but also that the DBT skills learned in groups are effective in treating symptoms of BPD.

Lastly, a study examined DBT group therapy with family members who were taking care of individuals with dementia. In this study, DBT groups were remarkably efficacious, as results displayed: (a) improved psychosocial adjustment, (b) increased problem-focused coping, (c) enhanced emotional well-being, & (d) less fatigue (Drossel 2011). This study highlights the effect of skills learned in DBT groups & their applicability across diverse mental health contexts.

These studies display that DBT group therapy is flexible & effective. Its adaptability permits DBT to be a versatile & integrative modality that can accommodate a wide variety of settings, goals, & treatment populations (Vinogradov, 2003).


Deussing, C. (2023). Advanced DBT mechanisms of change.

Drossel, C., Fisher, J. E., & Mercer, V. (2011). A DBT Skills training group for family caregivers of persons with dementia. Behavior therapy42(1), 109–119.

Joaquim Soler, Juan Carlos Pascual, Thaïs Tiana, Anabel Cebrià, Judith Barrachina, M. Josefa Campins, Ignasi Gich, Enrique Alvarez, Víctor Pérez, Dialectical behaviour therapy skills training compared to standard group therapy in borderline personality disorder: A 3- month randomised controlled clinical trial, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 47, Issue 5, 2009, Pages 353-358, ISSN 0005-7967

Uliaszek, A. A., Rashid, T., Williams, G. E., & Gulamani, T. (2016). Group therapy for university students: A randomized control trial of dialectical behavior therapy and positive psy- chotherapy. Behaviour research and therapy77, 78–85.

Vinogradov, S., Cox, P., & Yalom, I. (2003). Group therapy. In R. E. Hales & S. C. Yudofsky (Eds.), The American Psychiatric Publishing textbook of clinical psychiatry (4th ed., pp. 1333–1371). American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

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