Personality Disorders
Resources
Basic Information
Alternative Diagnostic Models for Personality Disorders ContinuedAlternative Diagnostic Models for Personality Disorders: The DSM-5 Dimensional ApproachIntroduction to Personality DisordersWhat is Personality?Flexibility: The Key to a Healthy PersonalityWhy Don't People Know They Have a Personality Disorder?The Definition of a Personality DisorderDefining Features of Personality Disorders: Distorted Thinking PatternsExamples of Personality Disorders With Distorted Thinking PatternsDefining Features of Personality Disorders: Problematic Emotional Response Patterns Defining Features of Personality Disorders: Impulse Control ProblemsThe Most Significant, Defining Featured of Personality Disorders: Interpersonal DifficultiesInterpersonal Difficulties ContinuedSummary of What is a Personality DisorderThe History of the Psychiatric Diagnostic SystemThe History of the Psychiatric Diagnostic System ContinuedDSM-5: The Ten Personality Disorders: Cluster ADSM-5: The Ten Personality Disorders: Cluster BDSM-5 The Ten Personality Disorders: Cluster CProblems with the Diagnostic System for Personality DisordersProblems with the Current Diagnostic System ContinuedKernberg's Dimensional Approach: An Alternative Classification SystemThe Dimension of Personality OrganizationThe Three Levels of Personality OrganizationLinking Two Personality Dimensions Differentiates Personality DisordersCo-occurrence of Personality Disorders with Other Disorders Co-Occurence of Personality DisordersCo-Occurence of Personality Disorders Continued Why Do Personality Disorders Frequently Occur With Other Disorders?What Causes Personality Disorders?Biological Factors Related to the Development of Personality Disorders (Nature)Early life Experiences and the Development of Personality Disorders (Nurture):The Bio-Psycho-Social Model of Human BehaviorObject Relations Theory of Personality DisordersObject Relations Theory ContinuedAttachment Theory of Personality DisorderAttachment Theory Expanded: MentalizationCognitive-Behavioral Theory of Personality DisordersCognitive-Behavioral Theory Expanded: The Dialectical Behavioral ApproachCognitive-Behavioral Theory Expanded: Schema TheoryOther Explanations of Personality Disorders: Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) ContinuedBiological Explanations of Personality DisorderBiological Explanations ContinuedThe Treatment of Personality Disorders Types of Treatment for Personality DisordersTransference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) for Personality DisordersTransference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) ContinuedMentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) for Personality DisordersMentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) ContinuedCognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Personality Disorders (CBT)Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy ContinuedDialectical Behavior Therapy for Personality Disorders (DBT)Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) ContinuedSchema Therapy for Personality DisordersSchema Therapy ContinuedMedications for Treating Personality DisorderMedication Treatments ContinuedTreatment complications: Co-occurring DisordersA Dual-Diagnosis Approach to Personality Disorder TreatmentPersonality Disorders Summary and Conclusion References and Resources - Part IReferences and Resources - Part IIReferences and Resources - Part IIIReferences and Resources - Part IV
More InformationQuestions and AnswersBlog EntriesVideosLinksBook Reviews
Therapist Search
Find a Therapist:
 (USA/CAN only)

Use our Advanced Search to locate a therapist outside of North America.

Related Topics

Mental Disorders

Family DBT

Simone Hoermann, Ph.D. Updated: May 14th 2009

white paperchain of figures holding hands across blue skyDialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has been applied not only for adults with personality disorders, but has more recently also been modified for the treatment of adolescents, couples, or people dealing with eating disorders or substance use issues. DBT has also been used to help family members of people with personality disorders and other mental illnesses. Dr. Elizabeth Wade, the clinical psychologist I mentioned in last week’s blog, facilitates a DBT group for family members and concerned significant others of patients who may be people who are suffering from a personality disorder, or bipolar disorders, depression, anxiety, substance use, and eating disorders. “The DBT family group is not confined to only family members of those with personality disorders, but is open to families and significant others of clients with a variety of different issues, “ says Dr. Wade.

Family DBT is set up similar to a regular DBT skills training group and covers interpersonal effectiveness skills, emotions regulation skills, and distress tolerance skills. This means that the family members learn the same skills as their loved one who is attending DBT groups.

The basis of all these skills is mindfulness, the idea that it is important to raise one’s awareness of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they play out with their family member who is in treatment. Mindfulness practice can be helpful for dealing with the concerned family member’s own emotions, since anxiety, anger, or regret can build up in families and impact people’s ability to participate in a satisfying life.

The group meets once a week for an hour and fifteen minutes. It is an ongoing group, which means that new members can join at any time. A lot of family members like to go through multiple rounds of learning the skills. It takes about 6 months to complete a full round of skills, though family members are welcome to stay longer. Group participants practice their skills in the group and are assigned a small amount of homework, which they bring back to the group for fine-tuning and trouble-shooting, much like a workshop.

Participants in the DBT family group reinforce each other in using effective behaviors, and the group can include as many members of one family as possible, since they can all affect the family system. The family member’s participation is often valued by the person in treatment as a sign that the family cares, a sign that they are interested and working towards supporting their recovery.

Over the course of the group sessions, family members share their experiences and support each other, giving suggestions and offering up resources. It can be helpful for family members to see how other people are dealing with similar issues. Often, there is a lot of shame in the family, so that frequently is a liberating experience to get a sense that one is not the only family dealing with these problems.

The family members of the patient don’t necessarily have to be in treatment themselves, but it certainly can be helpful if they are. What is important for the participation in the group is that the patient is in treatment, and that the family member is willing to listen to others and to participate in the group by speaking about their personal experiences as they relate to the skills. In the course of the group, participants learn some skills for effective communication and some crisis management skills, and they also are encouraged to learn how to take care of their own emotional needs. Often, the group provides a sense of relief that while another family member is going through difficulties, there is something that a concerned other can do, and that it is acceptable, even important, to take care of one’s own needs and concerns in order to be able to support a loved one.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    family dbt? - - Mar 1st 2010

    Are there practicians of family dbt in Sac, CA area. I also agree re is there research to support this?

    research - RAY - Nov 9th 2009

    could you site the research that Dr. Wade was discussing. I understand the idea of DBT for family using groups but how effective is it? Is there research to back this up?