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Understanding DBT: Best DBT Books For Therapists To Support Their Clients

December 14, 2023


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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a modality based on principles from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), has changed the landscape of mental healthcare as it was previously known. As a technique that combines mindfulness, cognitive strategies, and emotional regulation skills, it is uniquely curated to support clients with various mental health conditions and challenges, while primarily focusing on supporting individuals with conditions like borderline personality disorder (BPD) or depression. 

Therapists can benefit from using DBT-focused books to train their clients on the skills associated with this modality and learn specialized ways to apply them to unique therapeutic situations. Here, we’ll discuss several of the best DBT books available to mental health professionals interested in becoming more specialized in this approach. 

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)? 

Dialectical behavior therapy was developed in the 1960s by Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D., a mental health professional, teacher, and author who wanted to find a way to treat borderline personality disorder and emotional and behavioral concerns effectively. 

Linehan herself lived with several mental health challenges when she was younger and was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. After receiving an education in mental health, she later attributed these symptoms to a more plausible diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. 

Linehan brought her knowledge and experience of living with BPD when she created the official DBT manual and workbook. Because of her education in the mental health field and her experience as a person living with mental illness, she developed a unique and comprehensive approach to supporting people with profound emotions, suicidal ideation, and self-harming behaviors. Today, DBT serves as the first-line treatment for individuals experiencing these challenges.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text 988 to talk to a crisis provider over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. 988 also provides an online chat for those with an internet connection.

The Best DBT Books For Therapists

Books can serve as a vital resource for therapists seeking to learn more about techniques such as DBT. Below are some of the most popular and evidence based DBT books for therapists to expand their knowledge, utilize in practice, and share with their clients.

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The DBT Skills Training Manual By Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D. 

The DBT Skills Training Manual is the official guide for teaching DBT skills to clients. It was made specifically for educators, therapists, and psychologists looking to master the modality and pass it on to the individuals they serve. This manual outlines the four primary modules of DBT, which include: 

  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Emotional regulation 
  • Distress tolerance

The manual contains treatment notes, therapist guides, worksheet suggestions, and a step-by-step guide for offering DBT to groups or individual clients. Because DBT is often held in a group format, many of the tips in the manual apply to group settings. However, you can also offer DBT to individuals or couples. 

Part of receiving training in DBT is collaborating with other professionals and ensuring your own practices are ethical, practical, and supportive. For that reason, the DBT Skills Training Manual offers suggestions for communicating with colleagues and maintaining client rights while ensuring you are following the DBT modality structure correctly. 

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety By Alexander L. Chapman 

DBT often takes a broad approach to emotions and challenging symptoms. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety was written to tailor the skills of the original DBT modality to people living with anxiety disorders. It offers ten chapters, including the following: 

  • Chapter One: Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
  • Chapter Two: Overview of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy And Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Chapter Three: DBT Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance 
  • Chapter Four: DBT Emotion Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills 
  • Chapter Five: Stress
  • Chapter Six: Worry 
  • Chapter Seven: Flashbacks, Nightmares, and Other Traumatic Stress Symptoms 
  • Chapter Eight: Panic Attacks
  • Chapter Nine: Obsessions and Compulsive Behaviors
  • Chapter Ten: Social Anxiety 

This book aims to explore how DBT can help manage and treat anxiety through the lens of several common anxiety symptoms. It explores the four core components of DBT while introducing unique research about anxiety disorders that may not be mentioned in the original DBT manual. 

The DBT Skills Workbook for Teens By Teen Thrive

Therapists working with adolescents may benefit from using the DBT Skills Workbook for Teens, written by the Teen Thrive team, to help teens navigate various emotional challenges. This workbook allows teenagers to work through the DBT modules in a way that makes sense for their age group. It uses worksheets from Linehan’s original workbook and tailors them to adolescents with easy-to-understand language and fun interactive pages. 

This workbook focuses on a few primary goals, including the following: 

  • Coping with exams and other common forms of adolescent stressors
  • Developing mindfulness
  • Growing one’s life skills for increased confidence
  • Coping with extreme anger 
  • Balancing emotions 
  • Setting boundaries with friends and family members
  • Accepting situations one cannot or should not change 
  • Coping with an “emotional storm” 

This workbook also focuses on communication, teaching teens how to make their needs known and how to accept when they must go along with the decisions of people in power, such as parents. The DBT Skills Workbook for Teens can be effective in DBT family therapy when a teenager is present. It can also be offered to caregivers who are parenting teens with BPD or other mental health conditions. 

Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy By Thomas R. Lynch 

Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a book about RO-DBT, a modality developed by Thomas R. Lynch and inspired by DBT. This modality uses standard DBT skills and modifies them to support clients living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), and other control or obsession-based conditions. It explores the causes behind an intense desire for control and outlines skills to cope with uncertainty, spontaneity, and a lack of control in daily life. 

This workbook may be helpful for therapists working primarily with clients living with personality disorders or obsessive and compulsive-related disorders from the DSM-5. It outlines skills like self-inquiry, radical openness, mindful awareness, emotional expression, and balancing emotions with self-control. In addition, this modality may be more suited to people who struggle to be emotionally open instead of those who live with uncontrolled and intense emotions, such as those with borderline personality disorder. 

The High-Conflict Couple By Alan E. Fruzzetti, Ph.D. 

The High-Conflict Couple was written as a guide to DBT for couples living with intense conflicts, mismatched attachment styles, and traumatic pasts. It explores the emotional aspects of many romantic relationships and explains the potential causes of common couples’ frustrations. 

This book may benefit couples who are in a relationship in which one or both partners are living with a personality disorder. It discusses common symptoms of BPD and refers to high-conflict behaviors, such as splitting, shutting down during conversations, or yelling during arguments. This book aims to help couples cope with vulnerable conversations without partaking in unregulated behaviors. It also teaches couples how to respond rather than react in various heated situations. 

This book differs from other self-help books for couples because it offers a unique approach to conflict so that even couples with severe emotional dysregulation can find ways to communicate, connect, and show love in a healthy way. However, it can be crucial to note that this book is not meant to ignore abusive behaviors in relationships.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

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DBT Skills Training Handouts And Worksheets by Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D.

Marsha Linehan outlines the training materials for therapists in her first book, the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Manual. In her second book, the DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Linehan provides the worksheets and activities that can be printed and handed to clients during sessions. These worksheets can be utilized by therapists and clients alike and go along with each module of the official workbook. 

Worksheets and activities are a significant part of DBT. Clients are often asked to complete “diary cards,” which are worksheets outlining their moods, behaviors, and desires each week. The DBT Handouts and Worksheets book offers suggestions for creating a diary card and potential diary card topics and templates. When starting DBT, clients are often encouraged to purchase this book during their DBT training. Therefore, it can be an essential tool to have in your office to further aid your clients and follow along with them as they complete each worksheet. 

Why Use DBT Books With Clients? 

DBT can be a complex modality with many skills to teach and learn. Becoming an official DBT practitioner can mean being well-versed in all forms of DBT and its history. Unlike some other modalities, it takes a structured approach to treatment, often involving a treatment start and end date. 

When clients graduate from DBT, there are unique guidelines for therapists to celebrate this milestone and end treatment that may only be found in the official DBT workbook. For this reason, using a dialectical behavior therapy guide can be crucial to getting accustomed to offering this modality to clients. By utilizing DBT books, therapists can ensure that they are providing DBT to their clients to the best of their abilities. 

Offering Remote Support

DBT can be offered remotely as well as in person. Some therapists may prefer to see their clients virtually, as this can offer flexibility and convenience. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp allow providers to become contracted and match with as many or as few clients as needed to grow their practice. You can work from anywhere you have an internet connection, including your home, an office space, or a physical private practice. 

With online therapy, you can choose to match with individuals looking to receive treatment with DBT. You can also provide them with DBT-oriented worksheets to complete from their home and discuss these activities during each subsequent session. Your clients will have the opportunity to pick between phone, video, or live chat sessions, offering some variance in how you provide support. 

Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy for treating a range of mental health conditions. Researchers have assessed the efficacy of DBT when delivered virtually versus in person and discovered that each offers similar outcomes. In a comprehensive assessment of 11 different studies, researchers found that “online delivery of DBT [programs] is feasible and may be more accessible, acceptable and as safe and effective as face‐to‐face delivery.” They also noted that attendance rates were higher for those participating in therapy online versus in person. 


DBT is a unique therapeutic modality with frequent treatment success for mental health disorders causing profound emotional symptoms. People living with conditions like BPD, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety may benefit immensely from DBT, but this modality can be modified for many other disorders and challenges. For therapists seeking to learn more about DBT, several resources are available, including evidence-based books, guides, and manuals. Consider learning more about DBT by reading the books above to start incorporating this approach into your own practice.