Dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT is mindfulness-based psychotherapy. The treatment rests upon DBT mindfulness skills, practices, attitudes, and basic philosophy: the present moment is the anchor and the place where wisdom resides. DBT mindfulness skills are a movement, and psychology’s third wave of behavior therapies:

    1. First wave: Behavior therapy
    2. Second wave: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    3. Third-wave: Mindfulness-based dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)

DBT was created by a Zen Buddhist and self-described “hardcore behaviorist,” the researcher and psychologist, Dr. Marsha Linehan. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is unique in that it is both spiritually laden and scientifically validated, which is why this treatment resonates with so many. DBT is an “evidence-based” treatment, which means DBT clients have good outcomes – they get better.

DBT’s mindfulness and spiritual underpinnings compliment Villa Kali Ma’s DBT mindfulness skills, practices, and philosophy towards treatment and recovery; to transform; to garner effective behavioral practices for a spiritually informed life based on one’s truth and values. As Marsha Linehan would say, “To practice, dialectical behavior therapy is to participate in the present moment and make effective behavioral choices in service of creating a life worth living.”

What Does “Dialectical” Mean?

In short, “dialectical” means that two things can be true simultaneously, even things that might seemingly contradict one another. A dialectical belief is that all people have something unique, different, and worthy to teach us, no matter who they are or what they have done. A woman can be both a divine loving soul with a meaningful life purpose and someone who has made choices in the past which hurt people and herself.

Both And

The simplest definition of “dialectical” is “Both, And” (not either, or). Dialectical is often paradoxical. Being dialectical is consistent with being open-minded, releasing self-righteousness, “black and white” thinking, or “all or nothing” ways of seeing a situation; DBT is about acceptance and change. Living life from a dialectical stance is about making effective moment to moment behavioral choices which foster a life consistent with one’s life worth living goals. This perspective supports Villa Kali Ma’s emphasis on listening to each woman’s soul and fostering an environment wherein she is safe to hear this wise piece of herself.

Wise Mind

Foundational to DBT is the concept of “Wise Mind.” Villa Kali Ma women will learn how to connect with and honor the wise mind which already resides within them. The Wise Mind is present within every human being; it is an intuitive knowing. Wise Mind is where clarity abounds – the source where reason and emotion collaborate, and stillness speaks. As Marsha Linehan says, “Everyone has a wise mind; if you look deep enough, you can always find it.”

Wise Mind and Addiction

Villa Kali Ma’s DBT mindfulness skills training programs help foster every woman’s Wise Mind – her intuitive wisdom – and recognize this as foundational and fundamental in releasing avoidant, habitual, and harmful behaviors endemic to addiction. Wise Mind is the starting place for awakening and transformation into a life worth living. In fact, it is the wise mind who speaks in a woman’s “moment of clarity.” The Wise Mind is the voice that wakes her up from the nightmare of addiction. From wise mind consciousness, the addicted mind is overruled, and the woman can finally speak the words, “I’m willing to go to treatment; I want help.”

Connecting to Wise Mind

At Villa Kali Ma, our DBT mindfulness skills training programs help women connect with this consciousness daily. We begin each day at the Villa with awakening rituals, mindfulness practices, and meditations to foster and strengthen her connection to this consciousness, her Wise Mind, above all others. Likewise, our programs teach four sets of skills, but the DBT mindfulness skills, which foster this connection to one’s Wise Mind, are the only skills that are repeated weekly and inform all other skills. Everything begins from her Wise Mind.

Four Sets of DBT Mindfulness Skills

1. Mindfulness Skills

Skills, attitudes, and practices to foster a connection to wise mind consciousness and participate in the wisdom of the present moment.

2. Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

Skills to create and keep healthy relationships, deal with interpersonal conflict, say no, validate and see another’s perspective, even if you disagree with it, and how to ask for what you need effectively.

3. Emotional Regulation Skills

The goal of these skills is to reduce emotional suffering. Emotional regulation is not about getting rid of emotions, as they have important functions in a human being’s life. Instead, these skills teach us how to understand emotions, change emotional responses, reduce our vulnerability to the emotional mind, and manage or reduce the intensity of complicated emotions.

4. Distress Tolerance Skills

Simply put, distress tolerance is the ability to survive a crisis without making it worse. These skills foster grit and endurance. Distress Tolerance Skills empower us to tolerate what we once would have termed intolerable, been overwhelmed by, or maybe used/drank over. Life happens, and it does not cease to happen when we get sober. These skills help us accept that there are some things we cannot change and provide in the moment practices to survive the crisis. We effectively weather the storm – without making things worse.


DBT Mindfulness Skills Promote Open-Minded Thinking

Dialectical means that two ideas can both be true at the same time:

    • A life worth living has both comfortable and uncomfortable aspects (happiness and sadness; anger and peace; hope and discouragement; fear and ease; joy and sorrow).
    • All points of view have both true and false within them.
    • Two things that seem like opposites can both be true.

Dialectical Behavior Perspectives

    • You are doing the best you can, AND you need to try harder, do better, and be more motivated to change.
    • You can take care of yourself, AND you need help and support from others.
    • You are right, and the other person is right.

Being Dialectical Means

    • Letting Go of perfection, self-righteousness, assumptions, and blaming.
    • Letting Go of “All or nothing” ways of seeing a situation.
    • Looking for what is “left out” from your understanding of a situation.

DBT mindfulness skills are just one of the amazing recovery tools you will be introduced to at Villa Kali Ma. Join us today to begin your journey to freedom.


What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a very effective type of psychotherapy that grew out of the field of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). DBT expands on the strengths of CBT by incorporating methods and practices from mindfulness meditation. 

The word dialectical refers to the concept of synthesizing opposites. As the name implies, DBT works with softening extremes, achieving balance, and finding middle paths between seemingly opposing polarities in the psyche. 

DBT is centered primarily around teaching self-regulation and relationship skills to people who need extra help modulating the intensity of their inner experiences. DBT is one of the best modalities available for helping those among us who struggle the most with strong, difficult emotions and self-destructive urges, to learn emotion regulation and the ability to tolerate distress. 

DBT has been shown to be effective helping people who suffer from self-harm, addiction, sexual abuse trauma, depression, suicidality, and more. DBT is also the first therapy that has been abundantly proven clinically to help in the treatment of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

DBT is usually delivered in individual sessions combined with participating in a skills training group. The course of DBT treatment is a process in which psychotherapist and client work to practice self-centering mindsets and techniques of acceptance, mindful body awareness, and positive relationship skills. 

Through developing a state of inner balance to be the background for the extremes of one’s experience, DBT helps people interrupt destructive patterns through increasing awareness of the connection between triggers, reactive emotions, and counterproductive behavior.

In DBT people learn about, practice, and master several core competencies: 1. mindfulness, 2. acceptance and change, 3. distress tolerance, 4. emotion regulation, and 5. interpersonal effectiveness. 

Mindfulness is considered a foundational skill, because it makes it possible to accept and tolerate otherwise strong emotions that come up when we try to change habits, when we are exposed to trauma triggers, and when we are in challenging life situations. Mindfulness includes the ability to pay attention to the present moment, to refrain from labeling and judging one’s experience, experiencing emotions as sensations in the body, and applying wisdom. 

There are six mindfulness skills taught DBT, designed to help us experience the state of “wise mind” (wise mind being a unity of both heart and brain). The six skills are divided into two categories, what skills and how skills. The what skills learned in DBT are observe, describe, and participate. The how skills are non-judgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively.

The benefits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy


Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is exceedingly effective at reducing episodes of destructive behavior that bring harm to self and others. DBT shows positive results when it comes to reducing suicidal gestures, binge-eating and other food disorders, substance addiction and relapse, cutting, and emotional volatility. DBT benefits anyone exhibiting these types of behaviors and is one of the most effective methodologies for learning how to cope with the strong negative emotions and self-destructive urges that can make life after trauma so difficult. 

DBT also has long-lasting benefits after treatment is complete. Beneficial outcomes of participation in a course of DBT treatment include significant improvements in the following areas: 

  • Ability to tolerate negative feelings in the moment of having them, through applying methods for improving the moment, soothing one’s upset state, and practicing radical acceptance
  • Better decision making, through learning how to neutrally assess whether and how to take action, rather than responding only on the basis of strong negative feelings, intensity, and desperation to change one’s state
  • Emotional regulation, through learning how to identify emotions, reduce vulnerability to negative emotions, increase positive emotional experiences in one’s life, and take positive actions
  • Relationship skills, including self-respect, assertiveness, and treating others with care 
  • Improved self-esteem, self-love, and self-compassion
  • Reduction of negative emotions like anger and shame
  • More effective behavior in life
  • Coping skills that can be used in times of significant stress or crisis 
  • Improved quality of life over all, through better internal experiences and relationships with people
  • Learning to accept change graciously
  • Better outlook on life and positive mindset
  • Effective communication
  • Positive experiences in life that validate the changes one has been making 

How does DBT help women during Addiction Recovery

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) works hand in hand with substance abuse treatment to support women during addiction recovery.  As is always the case when treating mental health topics or trauma alongside addiction, it’s important to stabilize and to be sober for the course of treatment, or else addiction interferes with DBT’s effectiveness. That said, engagement in DBT will support sobriety, as the skillsets taught in DBT are very helpful for maintaining sobriety, as well. 

DBT in combination with substance abuse treatment helps decrease the physical discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings, impulsiveness, urges, and temptations to use. 

The core mindfulness practices coached in DBT help women identify and avoid triggers that lead to substance use. DBT skills also help support goals of substance abuse treatment through reducing the severity of emotional distress and improving the ability to tolerate extreme experiences without being triggered to self-destructive action as a way of seeking relief. 

Finally, DBT helps women to create, communicate, and enforce boundaries that are required for maintaining abstinence after leaving the treatment setting. Improved relationship skills are an enormous help in contexts where family, community, love and work life challenges are encountered.

In general, DBT supports the ability to choose to take positive actions and experience the ability to change. Even after completing treatment, DBT can be an ongoing resource for learning how to live life comfortably enough without substances, even in the face of strong emotions and life challenges, as well as past self-destructive tendencies or impulsive or damaging behaviors. 

Villa Kali Ma offers Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as a part of our treatment programs, because of its effectiveness and our strong belief in mindfulness as a safe, secure path to holistic wellbeing. 

When to Seek Help


If you are worried about suicide, please err on the side of caution and seek help immediately. If you are in a current crisis, you can speak with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any hour by calling 1 – 800 – 273 – 8255 (1-800-273-TALK). You can also go to an emergency room or call 911.

Outside of an immediate crisis, it is still critically important to seek professional help whenever destructive behavior is at play, as in the case of suicide attempts, cutting, eating disorders, self-harm, and substance abuse. While these gestures are ways of communicating pain, they are also dangerous and damaging. Ideally they are treated seriously and addressed right away. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based practice known to be effective in providing help for people suffering in the above ways. DBT is generally very highly recommended for those who have a hard time managing and modulating their emotions, so if you or your loved one are given to strong, distressing feelings and outbursts, such as severe anger and/or desperation, or problematic, dramatic impulsive behavior, DBT can be very helpful to make living in your skin more doable. 

Finally, if you or your loved one suffer from any of the following conditions, DBT is likely going to be very helpful for you:

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Survivor of sexual abuse or another form of significant childhood trauma
  • Self-harm, including cutting 
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders, especially bulimia
  • Serious Depression and/or Anxiety

If you have questions about DBT Therapy offered as a part of our holistic addictions treatment program for women at Villa Kali Ma, a member of our admissions team will be happy to discuss the topic with you, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us. 1 – 760 – 814 – 8214  

Dialectical Behavior Therapy options

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is typically facilitated by a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. 

Choosing a DBT therapist can take some time but is well worth the extra effort to make sure you feel the person is right for you personally. To find a DBT therapist, search for practitioners in your local area or in your state’s psychological association. Some practitioners work online.

DBT may involve a pre-assessment, individual therapy, skills training groups, and crisis coaching over telephone. 

You can expect a therapist who specializes in DBT to validate your feelings, help you accept yourself and your challenges, and to support you to change your self-destructive behaviors into positive ones. Your therapist will also actively coach you on how to apply skills that will help you improve your emotional world.

Individual DBT therapy is delivered in weekly sessions. These weekly sessions might be dedicated to the following goals:

  • Keep you safe from any self-harming, destructive or suicidal behaviors
  • Introduce you to new coping skills that effectively replace harmful behaviors
  • Help you practice mindsets that create balance and peace internally

Group DBT skills training is delivered in a classroom-like setting, where you can learn about the core DBT skills together with other people. In DBT Skills Training Groups you will practice skills that relate to mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. All of these skills help you live life more easily.  

Finally, it’s important to know that your intense emotions and your destructive behaviors are normal reactions, understandable given what you experience inside your skin and they are not your fault. You did not consciously choose to be harmed or damaged. 

It is your responsibility to learn to heal them, for the simple reason that only you will be able to make the needed changes to have a different experience. So fair or not it’s an inside job, but know this: recovering is absolutely possible with support. Many have done so before you, and you can do it, too.  

I don't believe it to be an exaggeration to say that Villa Kali Ma saved my life.
I couldn't have asked for a better environment to heal and redirect onto a path towards true living.


This place completely changed my life. I needed a drastic change from the typical recovery environment in order to stay sober long-term. I can honestly say that I love who I am today and I am forever grateful for Villa Kali Ma!


I am so grateful I found Villa Kali Ma, it has truly changed my life. Kay is awesome and the entire team who works there is absolutely amazing. If you need treatment, I highly recommend making this the start to your recovery.


Villa Kali Ma is an in-network provider with Anthem BCBS, Multiplan, First Health, and an authorized
out-of-network provider with TRICARE accepting most PPO plans or out-of-network benefits.
Call (760) 350-3131 for information on cost and payment options.