The contribution of skills to the effectiveness of dialectical behavioral therapy
Journal of Clinical Psychology
School of Arts and Humanities
Objective: The present study investigated the effectiveness of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and the effect of improvement in DBT skills on clinical outcomes. Method: Participants included 57 adults who attended a community mental health service and underwent one of two modes of DBT. Twenty-six adults had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and participated in comprehensive DBT (DBT-C; including group skills training, individual therapy, and phone coaching). Thirty-one adults had BPD traits and participated in DBT skills training (DBT-S; group skills training only). In the present study, the DBT skills examined were mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness; the clinical outcomes examined were borderline symptoms, psychological distress, and quality of life. Results: Six 2 × 2 analysis of covariances indicated significant improvements in psychological distress, quality of life, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness (but not borderline symptoms and emotion regulation), over a 6-month period. Mode of delivery of DBT did not impact on the improvement in DBT skills and clinical outcomes over the 6-month period. Hierarchical multiple regression results indicated that improvement in DBT skills (mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) were associated with reductions in borderline symptoms and psychological distress, with emotion regulation the only skill uniquely associated with improvements in clinical outcomes. Conclusions: The results of the present study support the effectiveness of DBT and the specific role of emotion regulation for favorable clinical outcomes over a 6-month period, independent of the mode of delivery of DBT.