Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Group

at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

DBT Skills Group in Grand Rapids, MI and West Michigan is now available at Health for Life Counseling.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Group
In Grand Rapids, MI and West Michigan At Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids, MI

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, is a cognitive-behavioral treatment approach that aims to help people manage emotional instability and improve their interpersonal relationships. It’s especially helpful for individuals who feel overwhelmed by their feelings or who struggle with handling tough situations.

The therapy was originally developed by Dr Marsha Linehan as a treatment for borderline personality disorder but studies have also shown the efficacy of DBT for various mental health conditions, such as substance use disorders, mood disorders, PTSD, and eating disorders. (May et al., 2016)

DBT is based on the synthesis of two opposite perspectives: (1) acceptance, which means acknowledging your own experiences and feelings without judgment, and (2) change, which means working towards improving emotional and behavioral responses.

During the therapy, DBT practitioners are focused on teaching 4 core skills:

  • Mindfulness – Learning to live in the moment and be aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Distress Tolerance – Finding ways to calm yourself and handle stressful situations with resilience.
  • Emotion Regulation – Understanding and managing your feelings better.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness – Improving how you communicate and interact with others.

Our therapists at Health for Life Counseling help clients develop these transformative DBT skills and apply them to their everyday situations to handle life’s challenges more effectively.

What are DBT Programs?

DBT programs rely on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy and aim to help people find a balance between accepting reality and the need for change. A typical DBT program lasts for 6 months or longer, considering that developing specific skills and integrating them into daily life takes time. These programs usually include individual therapy sessions, group skills training, and therapist consultation teams. Sometimes DBT can be a part of a more intensive treatment program, such as residential or partial hospitalization day programs. However, licensed therapists can also teach DBT skills in outpatient settings, independent of the full DBT program. 

Core DBT Skills Taught by Therapists

Therapists who specialize in teaching DBT skills focus on four modules of skills that help people cope with emotional distress in adaptive and productive ways. In particular, there are 4 foundational DBT skills, and among them, mindfulness and distress tolerance skills help you accept your behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, while emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness aim to change your irrational or maladaptive behaviors and thoughts.

Let’s discuss these “active ingredients” of DBT (in terms of Linehan) in more detail and see how they can be applied in everyday life:


Mindfulness is a key DBT skill that focuses on increasing awareness and acceptance of present experiences. It teaches individuals to observe their thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. This skill aims to help you pay attention to whatever is happening in your thoughts, feelings, and impulses and align your “inside” sensations to what you see, hear, smell, touch, and generally, to the environment you’re in. In simple terms, mindfulness is a skill that aims to help you live in the present moment.

According to studies, mindfulness skills are effective in managing depressive symptoms and improving overall psychological health (Elices et al., 2017).

After adopting this skill, you’ll be able to:

  • Be aware of the present moment
  • Avoid emotional reactivity
  • Balance rational thoughts with emotions
  • Take effective actions
  • Differentiate your emotions from your thoughts

Distress Tolerance

Even though mindfulness is an effective skill for managing emotions and staying present, sometimes it’s not enough to cope with intense emotional pain in a healthy way. That’s why developing distress tolerance skills is important.

Distress tolerance is the ability to face and handle negative emotions instead of trying to escape from them by using destructive coping strategies, such as self-isolation, avoidance, or engaging in harmful behaviors. All these behaviors make the situation worse, but distress tolerance skills are beneficial to reducing impulsivity.

Some of the most effective distress tolerance skills that you can learn include:

  • Distracting yourself from distressing emotions or situations.
  • Self-soothing techniques that engage the senses to calm down.
  • Improving the moment with positive activities or thoughts.
  • Accepting reality to acknowledge situations without trying to change them immediately.

Emotion Regulation

Sometimes, instead of accepting the overwhelming emotions that we face, we need to learn how to regulate them. Even when it feels like there’s no way out of these disturbing emotions, DBT can help you teach ways to identify, understand, and change your emotional responses before they lead to a vicious cycle of distressing reactions. This skill is crucial for anyone who finds themselves frequently overwhelmed by emotions of anger, guilt, shame, or worthlessness.

A 2021 study has shown that each DBT skills training is associated with improvements in emotion regulation capabilities and that it equips people with the tools needed to handle their emotions better​​ (Heath et al., 2021).

Here are some of the emotion regulation skills you can develop:

  • Understanding and naming emotions
  • Changing unwanted emotions
  • Reducing vulnerability
  • Be more mindful of your emotions

Interpersonal Effectiveness

The fourth core DBT skill is interpersonal effectiveness, which focuses on improving your ability to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships. The basic idea of this skill is to learn to ask questions directly, express what you feel, and stay true to your values in interpersonal communication. As a result, you can manage conflicts effectively, make requests, and say ‘no’ when you mean it or want to set a boundary.

Interpersonal effectiveness skills you can learn include:

  • Asking for what you need without feeling guilty
  • Saying ‘no’
  • Managing conflicts
  • Balancing priorities in relationships
  • Respecting yourself and others

In a 2023 study, the authors applied DBT’s Interpersonal Effectiveness skills in a workshop for clinical nurses. They found significant improvements in their communication skills and professional fulfillment​​ (Wu et al., 2023).

How Learning DBT Skills with a Licensed Therapist Can Help

Licensed therapists who specialize in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills can help you significantly improve your ability to manage difficult emotions and make healthier life choices. They create a structured and supportive environment where you can develop and practice these skills and, most importantly, learn how to apply them in real-life situations.

In the process of a DBT program with a licensed therapist, you’ll work to resolve the tension between accepting yourself as you are and recognizing the need for change. This balance is achieved through a mix of validation—understanding your actions within your personal context—and skill-building across the 4 key areas.

The main goal is to equip you with the tools needed to overcome life’s challenges more effectively, and improve your mental health and overall quality of life.

Here are some empirically proven benefits of working on DBT skills with a professional therapist:

  • Better emotional regulation to handle intense feelings more effectively.
  • Identifying and altering harmful behavioral patterns to healthier ones.
  • Reframing negative thought processes to support more constructive outcomes.
  • Increased resilience to stress and distressing situations.
  • Improved interpersonal relationships through better communication skills.
  • Ability to focus on the moment and a more balanced life.

Develop DBT Skills at Health for Life Counseling

As you can see, developing DBT skills can significantly impact your emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships. If you’re seeking to enhance your emotional resilience and interpersonal skills, you should know that our licensed therapists at Health for Life Counseling offer opportunities to learn and apply DBT skills as a part of your treatment plan. We offer both online and in-person sessions at our offices in Grand Rapids, MI, or Ada, MI.

Note that we also accept various insurance options, including Optum, United Healthcare, Priority Health, and many others to make getting help easier for you. You can view the full list of insurances we accept on this page.

Dbt Skills Group

DBT Skills Group in Grand Rapids Group Details

Population: Adults (18+)

Open vs closed: Open to new members at the start of a new mindfulness module

Group size: Max 20

Frequency: Weekly

How Often Can New People Join? Every time the “Mindfulness Teaching” happens.
Every 6 weeks approximately they can join
“Module” = 2 weeks of mindfulness and 4 weeks of teaching

In-person: at Holistic Health Collective

Time/Day: Wednesdays 7pm- 8/8:30pm, 1 hour to 1.5 hours

 Cost: $30 per session, or 10% discount to pay upfront for 6 weeks
WMU interns may sit it on the group to learn and participate

Call 616-200-4433 for additional questions.

Therapists For Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Group

Anna Utter

EMDR, DBT Skills, and Trauma-Informed Therapy for Adults and Teens

Katy Sandison

Supportive Therapy for Anxiety, Deconstruction Issues, Life Transitions and More

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