The Four Stages of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Treatment Explore the Four Stages of DBT in West Hartford, CT
Therapists think and talk about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) as having four stages. Not
every client stays in DBT for each stage of treatment, and we often work on multiple stages
simultaneously. However, by better understanding the stages of DBT treatment, clients can
learn more about where they are in the process and what other steps may be taken as they
continue to progress through DBT treatment plans. You can learn more about the stages on this
page or by getting in touch with the Harmony Center for Change team.
Stage 0 – Pre-Treatment & Intake
Before we dive into your DBT plan, you’ll sit down with a therapist to discuss why you’re
considering DBT and your goals for treatment. This pre-treatment and intake process is completed in a total of five sessions, and it allows your therapist to create a DBT plan that is specifically geared toward meeting you where you are and walking beside you as you achieve specific goals through DBT treatment.
Stage 1 – Behavioral Stabilization
Most people will begin with the behavioral stabilization stage. Other stages of DBT can happen
simultaneously or may not be necessary for every client, but behavioral stabilization is typically
an essential part of the DBT process. As the name implies, this first stage of treatment is all
about identifying, managing, and changing the problematic behaviors that brought you to DBT.
During this phase of DBT, you’ll address problem behaviors, self-harming behaviors, and
behaviors that interfere with your ability to effectively receive therapy interventions.
Additionally, you’ll learn the basic skills within the DBT modules (mindfulness, distress
tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness).
Stage 2 – Processing Trauma & Improving Emotional Experiencing
Many of the people who choose to go through the DBT process are dealing with the effects of
complex trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or overwhelming, dysfunctional
emotional experiencing. The second stage of treatment is about healing from trauma and learning to accept, manage, and process emotional and trauma responses in healthy ways. This may include working through the DBT-Prolonged Exposure (DBT-PE) protocol.
Stage 3 – Achieving Individual, Real-World Goals
In the third stage of DBT, clients are challenged to apply the skill they’re learning during therapy
sessions in their real lives. Now that behaviors and emotions are being regulated in healthy
ways, you can start using your new skills to set goals, build confidence, and generally, lead a
healthier, more satisfying life.
Stage 4 – Deeper Meaning
This stage is the least developed or standardized of the four DBT stages. It is highly personalized
to the individual’s needs, but the main goal is to find deeper meaning in your life through
spiritual existence. This is not a religious component to the DBT process. Instead, this part of
DBT is about finding and exploring your life purpose in order to develop a greater capacity to
experience joy and fulfillment. This stage of DBT can be beneficial for almost any client, even if
they don’t have specific behavioral or emotional concerns that bring them to DBT.
When you’re ready to get started with DBT, the Harmony Center for Change team is here for
you. Don’t let all the details and components of DBT overwhelm you. Just take a breath and
begin by giving our West Hartford practice a call. We look forward to hearing from you.