DBT Group Therapy: 5 Essential Skills to Become a Master


Introduction to DBT Group Therapy

Are you struggling to regulate your emotions, maintain stable relationships, stay focused in the present, or handle distressing situations? These are common challenges faced by many individuals seeking mental health care and solutions often seem elusive. However, one prominent approach that provides robust strategies to these concerns is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and specifically, ‘DBT group therapy’.

At DBT of South Jersey, we’ve observed how DBT group therapy has proven itself to be an effective tool for individuals seeking to manage their emotions and improve their quality of life. It’s not just a therapy; it’s also a class that emphasizes learning and applying life-changing skills such as mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance.

Quick DBT Group Therapy Facts:

  • Mode of Delivery: It is offered as a session, like a class, in a group setting—either in person or virtually.
  • Program Duration: The duration varies but bear in mind it is not a quick fix, it’s a journey that requires commitment.
  • Applicability: Originally created for people with borderline personality disorder, it has been adapted to help individuals with a wide range of mental health problems.
  • Effectiveness: It requires time and effort but provides the tools and approaches necessary to handle emotional and behavioral challenges effectively.

Infographic showing the four main DBT skills - dbt group infographic pillar-4-steps

Understanding the Core Components of DBT Group Therapy

DBT group therapy, as expertly facilitated by Shaelene Lauriano Kite at DBT of South Jersey, is designed around four core skills. These skills, aimed at helping individuals manage their emotions and behaviors more effectively, include Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance.


Mindfulness is the foundation of all DBT skills. It involves being fully present and aware in each moment, rather than being caught up in thoughts about the past or future. This skill can help you become more attuned to your emotional state, reducing the risk of being overwhelmed by intense feelings. As Kite explains, “Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, acknowledging and accepting what is happening without judgment.”

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness skills focus on navigating relationships and social situations. These skills can help enhance communication, assertiveness, and the ability to cope with conflict. For instance, they can assist in expressing needs or boundaries in a respectful manner, understanding and respecting the boundaries of others, and managing interpersonal conflict effectively.

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation skills involve understanding and managing your emotions. Rather than trying to suppress or ignore emotions, these skills encourage acknowledging feelings and using strategies to manage them effectively. This could involve learning to identify and label emotions, understanding the triggers and functions of emotions, and developing coping strategies to manage intense emotions without resorting to self-destructive behaviors.

Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance skills are crucial for coping with painful situations and managing crises. They offer strategies for surviving and tolerating distress without resorting to behaviors that could make the situation worse. These skills can help you manage stressful situations more effectively, reducing the likelihood of impulsive or harmful actions.

By understanding and practicing these core skills, participants in our DBT group therapy can work towards managing their emotions and behaviors more effectively, and ultimately, towards building a more balanced and fulfilling life.

The Benefits and Challenges of DBT Group Therapy

Understanding the benefits and potential criticisms of DBT group therapy is crucial to make an informed decision on whether it’s the right therapeutic approach for you.

The Advantages of DBT Group Therapy

1. Comprehensive Approach: DBT group therapy covers various aspects of mental health, including mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. By addressing multiple areas, DBT provides a holistic approach to improving mental health.

2. Skill Acquisition and Practice: DBT group therapy acts as a skills training class, providing practical strategies to manage emotions and navigate relationships effectively. These skills are not just theoretical but are practiced in the group, enhancing their efficacy.

3. Peer Support: One of the unique benefits of a DBT group is the support and understanding that comes from interacting with peers who are experiencing similar struggles. This shared experience can foster a sense of connection and reduce feelings of isolation.

4. Cost-Effective: Compared to individual therapy, group therapy can be more affordable, making it more accessible to a wider range of individuals.

Potential Criticisms and Challenges of DBT Group Therapy

While the advantages are significant, it’s also important to be aware of potential criticisms or challenges associated with DBT group therapy.

1. Time Commitment: DBT requires a significant time commitment, which may not be feasible for everyone. Participants are expected to attend weekly sessions and practice skills outside of these sessions.

2. Complexity of Skills: The breadth and depth of skills taught in DBT can feel overwhelming to some participants. This complexity, while beneficial in addressing various aspects of mental health, can be a barrier to some individuals.

3. Emotional Intensity: DBT group therapy involves discussing and dealing with intense emotions, which can be challenging and uncomfortable for some individuals.

At DBT of South Jersey, we understand these challenges and structure our DBT groups to address them effectively. We ensure that our sessions are paced appropriately to manage the complexity of skills, and we provide support throughout the process to navigate through the emotional intensity.

DBT Group session - dbt group

In the next section, we’ll delve into the ways to master DBT group therapy and fully harness its benefits.

How to Master DBT Group Therapy: Essential Skills

Mastering DBT group therapy involves embracing a comprehensive approach to managing emotions and interpersonal relationships. Here are five essential skills that can help you get the most out of your DBT group therapy sessions:

Skill 1: Embracing the Dialectical Approach

The first step to mastering DBT group therapy is to embrace the dialectical approach. This means accepting and finding balance between two opposing positions or truths. It’s about finding a middle path between acceptance and change. It may seem challenging at first, but over time, you’ll find that it helps foster a more balanced perspective towards life’s ups and downs.

Skill 2: Practicing Mindfulness Regularly

Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present and aware in a non-judgemental way, is a cornerstone of DBT. Regular mindfulness practice helps you to become more attuned to your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It also helps in reducing impulsive behaviors and enhancing emotional control. We provide mindfulness training as part of our DBT group therapy sessions, guiding you through exercises that help cultivate this skill.

Skill 3: Applying Emotional Regulation Techniques

Managing intense emotions is a common challenge for those seeking DBT therapy. Emotional regulation techniques help you to understand, accept, and manage your emotions without being overwhelmed by them. These techniques, including identifying and labeling emotions, increasing positive emotional events, and practicing opposite action, are taught within our DBT group therapy.

Skill 4: Enhancing Interpersonal Effectiveness

One of the goals of DBT is to improve your interpersonal relationships. This involves learning skills to express your needs and boundaries effectively, manage conflicts, and build healthy relationships. In our DBT group sessions, we teach techniques such as assertiveness training and active listening to enhance your interpersonal effectiveness.

Skill 5: Developing Distress Tolerance Skills

Life will invariably present painful and distressing situations. Rather than trying to escape or avoid these situations, DBT teaches distress tolerance skills. These are strategies to help you cope with and endure distressing events without resorting to self-destructive behaviors. Skills such as self-soothing, distraction, and improving the moment are taught as part of our DBT group therapy.

Mastering these five skills can help you navigate the journey of DBT group therapy more effectively. It may seem overwhelming at first, but remember, it’s a process that unfolds over time. And we’re here every step of the way to support you.

DBT Group Therapy at DBT of South Jersey

At DBT of South Jersey, we are committed to creating a supportive and compassionate environment for our DBT group therapy sessions. We understand that every individual is unique and so are their mental health struggles. Therefore, we approach therapy by tailoring it to each person’s specific needs and goals.

Our Approach to DBT Group Therapy

Our DBT group therapy is designed to be more like a class than a typical therapy session. We focus on teaching new skills that can be applied in everyday life. Our sessions start with mindfulness practice, a core and foundational skill in DBT. We follow it up with skills training in emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Each week, the group learns a new skill. While there aren’t tests or grades, there is homework. This usually involves practicing the skill of the week in your real life. This approach allows us to ensure that the skills you learn in therapy are truly being integrated into your daily life.

How We Address the Challenges of DBT Group Therapy

We understand that DBT isn’t a quick fix. It takes time to learn a whole bunch of new skills. That’s why we provide constant support throughout your journey. Each group session is designed to build on the last, slowly developing a toolkit of skills that can be used to navigate the challenges of life.

We also offer phone coaching to help you generalize the skills you are learning into your everyday life. In addition, we have therapist consultation sessions where your therapist receives feedback to better help you.

Success Stories from Our DBT Group Therapy Participants

Our DBT group sessions have been highly effective for many of our clients. Many of them have found the group sessions so beneficial that they chose to repeat the group once their time was up. This is not only a testament to the effectiveness of the skills learned but also to the supportive and nurturing environment we strive to create at DBT of South Jersey.

One of the most rewarding aspects of our work is hearing how our clients have been able to apply the skills they’ve learned in DBT group therapy to their everyday lives, improving their emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships.

At DBT of South Jersey, our goal is to help you create a life worth living. We are here to walk with you on this journey, providing the skills and support you need every step of the way.

Conclusion: The Journey to Mastering DBT Group Therapy Skills

The journey to mastering DBT group therapy skills is not a linear one. It requires commitment, practice, and patience. But the rewards can be life-changing. As you learn and apply the four key skills—mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance—you will begin to experience a greater sense of control over your emotions, improved relationships, and an overall enhancement in your quality of life.

The skills learned in a DBT group are not meant to be one-off solutions, but tools to be used continuously throughout life. Just as a musician continues to practice scales or a sportsperson drills fundamental techniques, it is through ongoing practice of DBT skills that you will experience their full benefits.

At DBT of South Jersey, we’re committed to making your journey to DBT mastery as supportive and effective as possible. We know that DBT group therapy requires a significant time commitment, and that the volume of skills learned can be overwhelming. But we are here to guide you through, to break down the process into manageable steps, and to provide ongoing support as you apply your new skills to everyday life.

To those who feel overwhelmed or hesitant, remember this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” At DBT of South Jersey, we’re here to help you do just that.

We encourage you to explore our FAQ section for more details about what to expect from DBT group therapy, and to reach out to us with any questions or concerns you might have. Our team of trained therapists is ready and eager to help you embark on this life-changing journey.

DBT Group Therapy - dbt group

The journey to mastering DBT skills is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient with yourself. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small. And know that with each step forward, you’re building a stronger, healthier, more balanced life.

DBT group therapy can be a life raft for those struggling in stormy emotional waters. It can help you navigate through the waves of intense emotions and interpersonal conflicts, guiding you towards calmer, more peaceful shores.

On behalf of all of us at DBT of South Jersey, we look forward to being a part of your journey to emotional balance and well-being.


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