top of page

Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A New Approach To OCD Treatment

Living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be incredibly challenging, impacting daily life in profound ways. However, there's hope on the horizon with a promising new approach called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). At Mindset Psychology, we're excited to share how DBT is revolutionizing OCD treatment, offering a ray of hope to those struggling with this condition.

Understanding OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive thoughts, images, or urges (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions can significantly interfere with daily life, causing distress and impaired functioning. Obsessions are intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that repeatedly enter a person's mind. These thoughts are often irrational or distressing and can evoke feelings of anxiety, fear, or disgust. Common obsessions may revolve around themes such as contamination, symmetry, harm, or taboo thoughts. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that individuals feel driven to perform in response to their obsessions. These behaviors are aimed at reducing or preventing the distress caused by the obsessions, although they typically provide only temporary relief. Compulsions can manifest as rituals, checking behaviors, counting, repeating words or phrases, or mental rituals like praying or repeating phrases silently.

OCD can have a profound impact on various aspects of daily life. Individuals may spend significant amounts of time engaging in compulsive behaviors, which can disrupt work, school, relationships, and leisure activities. The distress caused by obsessions and compulsions can also lead to avoidance behaviors, social isolation, and difficulty functioning in everyday situations.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

DBT is a comprehensive therapy approach originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder. It's rooted in mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Now, DBT is being adapted and applied to OCD treatment, offering a fresh perspective and new tools for managing symptoms.

It combines elements of cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness-based practices to help individuals develop skills for managing intense emotions, improving interpersonal relationships, and building a life worth living.

Historical Context And Development of DBT For OCD

The historical context and development of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) stems from its origins in treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Initially developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s, DBT was designed to address the complex and severe symptoms of individuals with BPD, such as emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, and self-harming behaviors.

As DBT gained recognition for its efficacy in treating BPD, researchers and clinicians began to explore its potential application to other mental health conditions characterized by emotional dysregulation and maladaptive coping strategies. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, with its significant emotional distress, intrusive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors, emerged as a potential target for DBT intervention.

Core Differences Between DBT And Other Therapeutic Approaches For OCD

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) stands out among therapeutic approaches for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) due to its unique principles and strategies. One of the distinguishing features of DBT is its strong emphasis on mindfulness. Mindfulness skills, such as observing, describing, and participating in the present moment without judgment, are integrated into all aspects of DBT therapy. In contrast, other therapeutic approaches for OCD may incorporate mindfulness to a lesser extent or focus primarily on cognitive restructuring or exposure techniques.

DBT places a significant emphasis on distress tolerance skills, which are designed to help individuals tolerate and manage intense emotions without resorting to maladaptive coping mechanisms. These skills, such as distraction, self-soothing, and radical acceptance, provide practical tools for managing distressing OCD symptoms and reducing the urge to engage in compulsive behaviors.

Another key component of DBT is emotion regulation, which involves identifying and understanding one's emotions, as well as learning strategies to modulate emotional intensity. By enhancing emotion regulation skills, DBT helps individuals with OCD develop healthier ways of coping with anxiety and distress, ultimately reducing the need for compulsive rituals or avoidance behaviors.

DBT also addresses interpersonal difficulties, teaching individuals effective communication and relationship-building skills. While OCD-focused therapies may primarily target symptom reduction, DBT recognizes the importance of addressing interpersonal challenges that can impact overall well-being and functioning. By improving interpersonal effectiveness, individuals with OCD can enhance their social support networks and reduce feelings of isolation.

DBT takes a holistic approach to treatment, addressing the interconnected nature of thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Rather than focusing solely on symptom reduction, DBT aims to promote overall psychological well-being and enhance quality of life. This comprehensive approach aligns with the complex and multifaceted nature of OCD, offering individuals a broader range of skills and strategies for managing their symptoms.

DBT therapists emphasize validation and acceptance as essential components of therapy. Unlike approaches that may focus on challenging or disputing irrational beliefs, DBT encourages therapists to validate clients' experiences and emotions while simultaneously promoting change. This validation helps foster a therapeutic alliance based on trust and understanding, creating a supportive environment for individuals with OCD to explore and address their symptoms.

Group vs. Individual DBT Sessions for OCD:

In DBT for OCD, both group and individual therapy sessions offer unique benefits that contribute to overall treatment effectiveness. Group therapy provides a supportive and validating environment where individuals with OCD can connect with others facing similar challenges. Group members share experiences, provide mutual support, and learn from each other's perspectives. Group therapy offers opportunities for social learning, skill building, and practicing new behaviors in a safe and supportive setting. It can also reduce isolation and stigma by fostering a sense of belonging and community among participants.

Individual therapy offers personalized attention and tailored guidance to address each client's specific needs and goals. In individual sessions, clients have the opportunity to explore their OCD symptoms in greater depth, receive targeted interventions, and work through personal challenges with the support of their therapist. Individual therapy allows for focused attention on individualized treatment goals, progress monitoring, and ongoing feedback from the therapist.

Integrating both group and individual therapy sessions in DBT for OCD can maximize treatment outcomes. Group therapy provides peer support, social reinforcement, and opportunities for learning and practicing skills in a group setting. In contrast, individual therapy offers personalized attention, focused interventions, and in-depth exploration of individual concerns. The combination of both modalities allows for a comprehensive and holistic approach to treatment, addressing both interpersonal and intrapersonal factors contributing to OCD symptoms.


DBT offers new hope for individuals living with OCD, providing practical skills and a supportive framework for managing symptoms and improving quality of life. If you're struggling with OCD, don't hesitate to explore DBT as a treatment option. Contact Mindset Psychology to learn more and take the first step towards reclaiming your life from OCD. Ready to explore DBT for OCD? Contact Mindset Psychology today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how DBT can transform your journey towards recovery. Visit our website for additional resources and success stories from individuals who have found relief through DBT for OCD.


bottom of page