Students and professionals learn the benefits of dialectical behavior therapy

About 60 Doctor of Psychology students, clinical faculty, and community behavioral health treatment providers attended “Skills Training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy: The Essentials,” on the Huntington campus June 8 and 9.

Dialectical behavior therapy is a cognitive behavioral treatment for individuals who suffer from severe and chronic emotion dysregulation and related problems. The treatment involves teaching skills in the areas of mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation, and it works by helping individuals utilize learned skills to experience emotions rather than avoiding them, to tolerate distress, and to avoid problematic behaviors.

“It is our hope, that this training will be a catalyst to increasing the availability of DBT-focused treatment options for Marshall University students and members of the community who seek assistance from the Psychology Clinic and other behavioral health providers in our region,” said Dr. Penny Koontz, Psychology Clinic director.

Koontz explained how research has shown that dialectical behavior therapy is effective in helping individuals with opiate addiction reduce their substance abuse. For example, a 2002 study by Linehan et al. showed that when compared to a comprehensive validation treatment, participants in DBT experienced significantly greater reductions in opiate use.  DBT can thus be implemented to help individuals who suffer from heroin addiction, particularly those whose addiction serves as a way to cope with emotion dysregulation.

The presenter, Dr. Nicholas L. Salsman, is an associate professor of psychology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he is the director of the Xavier University Psychological Services Center and runs the Xavier University Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program. He is certified by the Linehan Institute in Seattle, WA as a DBT trainer.

The training was sponsored by the Psychology Clinic and was made possible by a grant form the Foundation for the Tri-State Inc., and through support from the Department of Psychology and the College of Liberal Arts.

For more information about dialectical behavior therapy, visit


Photo: Dr. Nicholas Salsman conducts a session on dialectical behavior therapy last week on the Huntington campus.