*In addition to standard DBT skills groups, providers in the TADBiT network offer skills groups for college students, adolescents, families, couples, trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, and those with disordered eating. Click the "GROUPS" tab above for additional information.

Standard DBT Skills Groups

What are the criteria to be listed in the TADBiT Standard DBT Skills Group directory?

  • At least one of the two leaders of the skills group must be a therapist listed in the TADBiT Directory (therapists in this directory are committed to providing five functions of comprehensive DBT when that is best practice treatment).

  • Each leader agrees to provide DBT in an adherent fashion, including requiring that group members have individual therapists.

  • Sessions provide information on particular coping strategies and elicit from participants the effective coping strategies they have learned.

  • The skills group meets weekly for at least 90 minutes.

  • Each session includes the following: a mindfulness exercise, a homework review, new skills teaching/practice, and a homework assignment.  Handouts and worksheets used in sessions are primarily from Marsha Linehan’s DBT manuals.

  • Each module must be at least 8 weekly sessions (6 week modules for Adolescent DBT-Rathus & Miller), beginning with 2-3 sessions of orientation/core mindfulness followed by 5-6 sessions of a specific module skills (emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance).

  • The leaders agree that potential skills group members who have engaged in self-harm behaviors in the last 6 months must have a DBT individual therapist, or that the individual therapist join a DBT team or arrange for DBT supervision. 

What is the function of DBT skills group?

Skills groups are one of the five modes of DBT and serve the function of enhancing the capabilities of clients who lack needed behavioral skills to regulate emotions.

Skills training tries to cram the skills into the person and individual psychotherapy tries to pull them out. - Marsha Linehan, Skills Training Manual for Treating BPD

There are three types of skills training procedures: 1) skill acquisition (e.g., instructions, modeling), 2) skill strengthening (e.g., behavioral rehearsal, feedback), 3) skill generalization (e.g., homework assignments, discussion of similarities and differences in situations). In skill acquisition, a therapist is teaching new behaviors. In skill strengthening and generalization, the therapist is trying both to fine-tune skilled behaviors and to increase the probability that the person will use the skilled behaviors already in her repertoire in relevant situations....Skills training can only be accomplished if a person actively collaborates with the treatment program...learning new skills requires practice, practice, practice. Equally importantly, practice has to occur in situations where the skills are needed.

Marsha Linehan, Skills Training Manual for Treating BPD

How are skills groups a necessary part of treatment in DBT?

Clients in standard DBT* receive three main modes of treatment – individual therapy, skills group, and phone coaching. In individual therapy, clients receive once weekly individual sessions. Clients also must attend a two-hour weekly skills group for at least one year. Unlike with regular group psychotherapy, these skills groups emerge as classes during which clients learn four sets of important skills – Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance.

DBT FAQ, 2008 Behavioral Tech, LLC; © 1997-2008 Cindy Sanderson, http://behavioraltech.org/downloads/dbtFaq_Cons.pdf

How is the role of the individual therapist as the treatment leader different from the skills group leader?

It is the individual therapist’s job to coordinate the treatment with the other people – skills group leaders, psychiatrists, and vocational counselors. In collaboration with the client, the therapist keeps track of how the treatment is going, how things are going with everyone involved in the treatment, and whether or not the treatment is helping the client reach his or her goals.

DBT FAQ, 2008 Behavioral Tech, LLC; © 1997-2008 Cindy Sanderson, http://behavioraltech.org/downloads/dbtFaq_Cons.pdf 

Note for DBT therapists.

If you are interested in learning more about DBT skills group to prepare to co-lead your own group or simply to become more familiar with teaching the skills, consider becoming a participant-observer. When a space is available, most skills groups will accept a therapist who makes a 6 month commitment to participate as a group member. Other requirements and fees may vary.