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Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) offers an effective transdiagnostic treatment with a well-articulated theory, protocol, and multiple strategies that simultaneously embrace acceptance-mindfulness-validation and cognitive-behavioral change strategies. DBT has a significant evidence basis for helping people who experience intense emotional suffering and maladaptive coping skills to “create a life that’s worth living.”  In this workshop, Debbie and Robin will introduce the foundational knowledge of DBT and demonstrate how to apply DBT to work with a heterogeneous and complex population of individuals. They will review DBT’s empirical support, and describe the core principles, assumptions, agreements, structure and components of DBT treatment. They will also explain the transactional biosocial processes that underlie pervasive dysregulation, and the skills that clients learn in DBT. Participants will learn through a combination of didactic material, role-plays, and experiential activities for a full-bodied understanding of applying DBT in their therapeutic practice.

As a comprehensive treatment, DBT can:

  •  Decrease the frequency and severity of self-destructive behaviors.
  •  Increase the motivation to change by providing positive reinforcement.
  • Teach “coping skills” that generalize to a person’s environment.
  • Provide a treatment environment that emphasizes the strengths of both individuals and their treatments.
  • Enhance the therapist’s motivation and ability to treat clients effectively.



Photo of Deborah BarrettDeborah (Debbie) Barrett, PhD, LCSW is a Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Social Work and the Department of Medicine in Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is committed to increasing access to mental health services and helped found the Pro Bono Counseling Network. In 2005, she founded the UNC Clinical Lecture Series at the School of Social Work, and has been growing the series to meet changing demands. From 2006 to 2016, Debbie co-facilitated two weekly, low-fee DBT groups in private practice (including four years with Robin), and currently facilitates “dialectical pain management” groups at UNC Psychiatry outpatient practice, which she applies DBT principles in a novel intervention focused on physical pain and associated distress. She is passionate about improving life for individuals suffering with chronic pain, and thus provides trainings whenever asked and penned a self-help book on pain management.

Robin Sansing, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with more than ten years of counseling, teaching and coaching experience. She is a faculty member at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in the School of Social Work, where she co-taught a course on DBT with Debbie Barrett, for which they received a teaching award. In addition, Robin has a small thriving psychotherapy practice where she utilizes DBT with groups and individuals. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal Studies from Prescott College, and a Master’s degree in Social Work from North Carolina State University. In her leisure time, Robin enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, cycling, practicing yoga and meditation, and taking her dog, Kira, for long walks.


  • Harned, M., Korslund, K., & Linehan, M. (2014). A pilot randomized controlled trial of dialectical behavior therapy with and without the dialectical behavior therapy prolonged exposure protocol for suicidal and self-injuring women with borderline personality disorder and PTSD. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 55(1), 7-17
  • Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and Recovery. NY: Basic Books
  • Koerner, K. (2012). Doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Linehan, M. M. (2014). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. New York: Guildford Press.
  •  Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Meyers, L., Voller, E. K., McCallum, E. B., Thuras, P., Shallcross, S., Velasquez, T., & Meis, L. (2017).
    Treating veterans with PTSD and borderline personality symptoms in a 12‐Week intensive outpatient
    setting: Findings from a pilot program. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 30(2), 178-181.
  • Ritschel, L. A., Lim, N. E., & Stewart, L. M. (2015). Transdiagnostic applications of DBT for adolescents and adults. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 69(2), 111-128.
  • Wagner, A. W., Rizvi, S. L., & Harned, M. S. (2007). Applications of dialectical behavior therapy to the treatment of complex trauma‐related problems: When one case formulation does not fit all. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20(4), 391-400.


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