The Use of DBT Therapy for Depression


Did you know that DBT therapy can be useful for depression? Although formed in the 1970s to treat borderline personality disorder symptoms, it's been found to treat depression as well.

Tens of millions of people in the United States have had at least one bout of major depression, meaning if you feel like you are depressed you are not alone.

DBT is a form of psychotherapy. While other forms of psychotherapy are available for depression, and so is medication, DBT therapy has proven to be helpful for many to fight their depression symptoms.

Below we will discuss what depression is, major depressive disorder, why one can use DBT for it, the timeline for DBT treatment, and skills learned in DBT.

Continue reading to learn all about how DBT therapy can help people with depression.

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Heather Comensky, LPC

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Dr. Michelle Palmieri, DSW, LSW

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Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Julie Maloney, LPCC

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Jacquelynne Sils, LPC

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Melissa Johnston, LPC

Melissa Johnston, LPC

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Derek Bonds, LPC

Derek Bonds, LPC

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Felicia Gray, MS, LPC

Felicia Gray, MS, LPC

Pueblo, Colorado
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Amber Chambless, LPC

Amber Chambless, LPC

(720) 449-4121
Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Sherry Rice, LPCC, ADDC

Sherry Rice, LPCC, ADDC

(719) 452-4374

What is Depression?

Believe it or not, depression is a medical illness. It is serious and negatively affects how one feels, thinks and acts.

The good news is that depression is treatable. One may have depression if they feel sad, or have lost interest in activities they once enjoyed.

A person with depression may have lost their ability to function at home and work.

They may have lost their appetite, and have lost a lot of weight or perhaps gained some.

A person with depression can have trouble sleeping or may want to sleep constantly.

Fatigue is common in people with depression. A person with depression may frequently think of suicide or death, and feel guilty or worthless.

It is common for someone with depression to have trouble making decisions, concentrate and thinking.

If these types of symptoms have lasted for two weeks or more, then you may have depression.

It is important to see a mental health provider for an official diagnosis and treatment options.

Major Depressive Disorder

We would like to discuss major depressive disorder (MDD), as it is a very common depression type.

Remember that depression is very treatable. MDD causes a depressed or low mood that one has consistently.

There are different types of MDD, which include seasonal affective disorder, prenatal depression, postpartum depression, and atypical depression.

Many with MDD find they have obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and/or a substance use disorder.

MDD can affect anyone, from children to adults. Many cases begin in a person's 20s, but again, it can happen to anyone at any age.

Many people with depression find they lack close interpersonal relationships and are likely to be widowed, separated, or divorced.

Why Use DBT Therapy for Depression?

DBT therapy teaches emotional regulation skill techniques, allowing those with depression to get a good understanding of what healthy emotions and responses look like.

Clients and therapists work together to identify both the client's strengths and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

With DBT, the goal is to seek out existing positive thoughts and behaviors, then help the client challenge harmful beliefs.

DBT therapy helps people with depression better their self-image as well as their life quality.

Many people with depression have lost interest in social activities, and DBT can get them back into those along with better social skills.

Headaches and other body aches are common among people with depression, and DBT can help with those.

If one has lost the ability to focus and concentrate, they may find that DBT can assist with that as well. 

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Timeline for DBT Therapy Treatment

You may wonder how long you may need DBT to see results. Many people are in DBT for anywhere from six months to one year.

Along the way, though, many people notice gradual improvements. They may find they need a shorter or longer amount of time in treatment, depending on how things go for them.

One needs to commit to the therapy and fully participate to see quicker changes.

The changes include finding appropriate coping skills and managing distressing emotions.

Fewer depression symptoms will exist, and eventually, unhealthy and harmful thoughts will decrease.

Both group and individual therapy are common for DBT. Many people receive individual therapy once per week.

This is important because it gives a person with depression one-on-one time with a mental health professional.

It helps them discover the root causes of their issues, and do deep work to understand the thoughts and feelings they experience.

A group session includes working with peers to practice coping skills and build confidence in them.

Group sessions are important for improving relationship and communication skills.

The group sessions are run by therapists who closely supervise the sessions. 

Skills You Will Learn in DBT Therapy

In DBT you will learn about mindfulness. It teaches someone with depression how to identify emotions.

It helps them label their feelings to appropriately address unhelpful thought processes.

Mindfulness gets people to be present and remain in the moment.

There is also distress tolerance. This will teach you to encounter and deal with unfavorable emotional circumstances.

Many people with depression lack distress tolerance, and because of that this module is critical.

One will also learn about emotional regulation. Many with depression find they have negative emotional responses and overwhelming feelings.

In DBT therapy there is also an interpersonal effectiveness module, which is critical.

This teaches clients about changing and improving relationships with other people.


There is a lot DBT therapy can do to help people with depression. Remember that DBT requires work, and it is a serious commitment. 

It is worth it if you want to feel better and break free from many of your depression symptoms that may have been weighing you down. 

While medication and other types of therapy have been helpful, DBT is up there with its effectiveness for people dealing with depression. 

Out of the many people who have dealt with the illness, a significant amount have found DBT to help them. 

Although it was founded to treat borderline personality disorder, DBT has been especially helpful for many with other mental illnesses, including depression.


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July 13th, 2024

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