Friday, February 21, 2014

How to Find a (Good) DBT Therapist

One of the most common e-mails I receive at DBT Path is asking for a referral for DBT counselors in their areas.  It can find like a needle in a haystack to even find a DBT counselor let alone one you connect with.  Don’t fret there are options out there and some don’t involve leaving the house.

The Good:  This list is of those formally trained though Behavioral Tech.
The Bad: Many DBT Therapists are not trained through Behavioral Tech (myself included) and it includes mostly DBT Clinics over individual counselors.

2.  Google
The Good: It’s simple and it might bring up therapists who willing to do sliding scale or starting a practice than those who pay to be on search sites.
The Bad: It’s google, so anything with “DBT+ Phoenix” will come up, including a band called Drive By Truckers.

The Good: Easy to use search engine just for therapists.  You can search for DBT-specific therapists and see short bios and pictures.
The Bad: Same as with other search engines for therapists, they pay for the advertisements so small practices might not advertise.

The Good: This is the top site for searching- more listings and more detail in profiles.
The Bad:  Same as good therapy regarding therapists paying for their listing.

The Good: It’s online, via e-mail or make a phone appointment so stay in your PJs also some therapists profiles say “live now,” which means if you want to talk to someone at 3am they might be someone there (it’s not crisis counseling.)  Therapists do not pay to be listed and they have reviews.
The Bad: Many people like face-to-face therapy and the prices are a bit steep if you are looking for ongoing help.  There are also less than 10 DBT Therapists listed right now.

6.  Look for a non-DBT Therapist.  : I know this seems weird, but hear me out on this.
     The Good:  Many counselors who are not DBT Therapists are still great counselors.  If you are looking for help      with trauma and sharing diary card/homework accountability, a non-DBT Counselor might be a great fit.  Yes,      you won’t talk DBT the whole time, but you might get great non-DBT coping skills.  This opens up the number      of local Mental Health Professionals exponentially.
     The Bad: It’s not DBT-oriented.

So now you have some names and numbers of DBT Therapists so where to start?  There are many articles on how to find a “good” therapist.  This site has a great list of what to ask so I am going to focus on what to ask a “DBT Therapist.” 

I put “DBT Therapist” in quotes for a reason.  There are many great therapists that have some training on DBT and list DBT in their profiles, but then don’t have much knowledge of it.  Many of the search sites have check boxes and I think many therapists get “click happy.”  I am not saying these are not great therapists, but if you are looking to talk DBT, review diary cards and talk skills these counselors might not be a good fit.  Here’s a list of what to as a “DBT Therapist to ensure they are DBT Counselors:

·         Give them a ring, not an e-mail.  Sounds sneaky but try to catch them a bit off guard so their answers are not prepared even if they end up calling you back.
·         Take the free meet-and-greet.  If you are searching someone in person, most offer an initial consultation on person or on the phone- take them up on it and be prepared with questions.  Consider this a job interview and you are the boss!
·         What training do you have specific to DBT?
·         How many clients who have (your diagnosis or primary issue) have you used DBT skills with?
·         Have you ever facilitated a DBT group?
·         Are you familiar with DBT Diary Cards?  Emotion Regulation 1a worksheets?
·         How familiar are you with specific skill?  Heck name a few major skills (i.e. Wise Mind and Opposite Action) and see if they can keep up.

You are the consumer and deserve the best- be assertive!  Ask for exactly what you want to work on.  If you are struggling with relationship issues and past trauma issue start the conversation with, “I am working on relationship issues and handling past trauma that is interfering with my life.  I am looking for more accountability and skill building one-on-one.  I have found wise mind, radical acceptance and mindfulness most effective and could use more depth in my learning of these skills.”  A good therapist who isn't well versed in DBT will re-direct you to someone else.

No matter which way you go, if you need help be EFFECTIVE and find it!


  1. Gee Alicia I must have contacted about 15 of those therapists (psychology today). It seems they are all talk therapy. I've done talking for twenty years. Talk has made me aware, it has not made me able to beat some obstacles. I wonder if that is only something I can do?

    1. Hi M.V,

      There are many models of therapy that are not only "talk therapy." On that site you can select a therapist by what model they use such as; ACT, DBT, CBT (and others that are not acronyms.) It sounds like you might need more skills building such as DBT or CBT or maybe solution-focused therapy.
      the best kind of therapy is the one that works for you, so keep searching and I am glad you are putting in the effort it takes to find a great fit.

      Alicia Paz

  2. Hi. I'm researching DBT for a)potential BPD (mainly compulsive emotions in the areas of spending money, being emotionally attached to things, experiences, having negative thought processes and overcompensation for things and b) because I love to analyze and research (probably too much) and am probably addicted to information. I've just began seeing a therapist (only been to two sessions) and basically my understanding of what she told me was that co-dependency is the root of most of this and I need to slow down. Also, I'm fairly upbeat and sometimes this is an overcompensation. She's a non-DBT therapist. I share all of this because a) I'm exceptionally open with my issue b) to see if DBT would help with all this and if so how and c) I want to distinguish between DBT therapy and non DBT therapy. Talk has definitely increased my awareness, but I may see better results with solution based therapy as I don't want to spend and extensive amount of time developing awareness. Other issues include enabling from my parents (emotionally and socially), emotional abuse from my mother and the fact that my entire family including myself acts passively aggressively toward her because its the only successful way we've found to keep the peace. Also, I'm in a home based business, yet I think negatively on sales and marketing when it comes to me actually implementing the information I'm addicted to learning. Anyway, hope you can make sense out of some of this. Look forward to hearing from you.

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    Dbt Therapists