Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Our therapists, intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, work with adults who have pronounced emotion regulation difficulties.

What is DBT?

DBT is an empirically based, structured therapy that emphasizes both acceptance and change-oriented skills. We help clients move away from polarized thinking in order to accept seemingly opposite truths. This “dialectical” thinking allows them to construct more effective, meaningful lives. Clients learn skills in mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

History of DBT at The Wake Kendall Group

Our DBT program is true to the model of a community of therapists treating a community of clients. The Wake Kendall DBT community took root in 2003 when Wake Kendall psychologists first participated in week long intensive training sessions with Dr. Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT. The Wake Kendall DBT program has grown organically as we have observed clients making effective use of DBT to achieve their goals.

About Our Team

We have a robust team in which senior members share accumulated experience, and early career therapists infuse our program with new energy and ideas. Some members of our team have pursued and achieved certification by the DBT Linehan Board of Certification, the only certification board recognized by the founder of DBT. The certification process involves a number of steps that show understanding and adherence to the DBT model. It is an unusually demanding process, and it is a testament to our program that Wake Kendall psychologists have been successful in becoming certified. Our team meets weekly, and we continually hone our skills with ongoing training and regular consultation with DBT gurus in other parts of the country. We are honored to be involved in important changes in the lives of our clients, some of whom have come to us with extensive histories of prior treatment. The central idea in DBT is that individuals are doing the best they can and, at the same time, need to change. We constantly seek to improve our ability to meet the needs of our clients, and we believe that humility and a respect for the formidable challenges faced by clients is critical to our work.

Who Can Benefit from DBT?

DBT has long been the treatment of choice for individuals with pronounced emotion regulation difficulties, and over the years, DBT has been extended to work with individuals who struggle with depression, trauma, and addiction. Wake Kendall offers DBT for adults with a range of presenting concerns. We take time in pre-DBT sessions to ensure that DBT is a good fit for the client. Once it is established that DBT will address the needs of the client, we typically ask for a one-year commitment.

For more information about DBT, visit behavioraltech.org.

Adult DBT Program

The Adult DBT Team includes four key components: weekly skills training, weekly individual therapy, telephone coaching, and treatment team.

Weekly skills training: Clients attend one weekly instructional group with roughly ten to twelve participants and two professional leaders. The group lasts one hour and forty-five minutes. The topics covered are:

  • Mindfulness: Strategies to increase the capacity to pay attention, non-judgmentally, to the present moment
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: Strategies to attain personal goals in interpersonal situations while enhancing self-respect and overall quality of relationships
  • Emotion Regulation: Strategies to understand and manage emotions in effective, productive ways
  • Distress Tolerance: Strategies to tolerate high levels of painful emotions and accept reality as it is

Weekly individual therapy: Clients attend weekly individual therapy sessions, lasting from 45 to 60 minutes. Individual therapists help clients identify meaningful goals and target specific behaviors to change. Clients keep a “diary card,” a checklist for tracking thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and skills on a daily basis. During sessions, the therapist’s role is to facilitate application of skills to daily life. Clients are also expected to maintain or steadily move toward at least 20 hours of structured activity per week (paid work, volunteer work, or classes).

Telephone coaching: Clients are encouraged to call their individual therapist for brief (five minute) skills-oriented coaching when they are experiencing difficulty applying skills.

Treatment team: Individual therapists and group skills leaders meet on a weekly basis and work as a consultation team.

Family and Friends Support Group

Partners, parents, relatives, and close friends of clients in our DBT program often benefit from extra support and guidance. Please call 202-686-7699, extension 30 to find out the dates of our next Family and Friends information and support group. Lunch will be served, and a textbook will be provided.


We currently offer four adult groups:

Tuesdays (9:30-11:15 a.m.)
Wednesdays  (10:00-11:45 a.m.)
Thursdays (10:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. and 5:30-7:15 p.m.)

Individual therapy appointments are on weekdays only. Some of our therapists offer early morning and early evening appointments.

Intake Procedure

We often have waiting lists for our DBT programs. We endeavor to move people off the waiting list as soon as possible. The typical wait time is 4 to 12 weeks. In the interest of facilitating a smooth intake procedure, we ask that you proceed with the following steps:

  1. Complete the attached application (scroll down to links at the bottom of this page). This brief screening form is a preliminary tool for us to begin determining whether our DBT program is an appropriate treatment for you. It is not a substitute for a more thorough, in-person intake process.
  2. Send your completed application to the following address: Attn: DBT Program, The Wake Kendall Group, 5247 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 4, Washington DC 20015. You can also send it by fax to 202-362-9633.
  3. Once we receive your application, an intake coordinator (for adults: 202-686-7699, ext. 30; for adolescents: 202-6867699, ext 66) will contact you for a brief phone screening. The purpose of this phone screening is to review your application and address any questions that you may have.
  4. Unless it is clear from this brief telephone screening that our DBT program is not appropriate, your name will be put on the waiting list. Please make sure you get the treatment you need while you are waiting to get into our program.
  5. We ask that you call our intake coordinator every three weeks to express your continued interest. She will return your calls and, with time, be able to offer closer estimates regarding possible start dates. If a few months pass without updates from you, your name will be dropped from the waiting list.
  6. Once it becomes clear that we will have an opening in a group, we will assign you to an individual therapist. We ask that you call this therapist within 1-2 days to schedule an initial intake appointment.
  7. You will then begin a 3-6 week phase of “Pre-DBT individual therapy.” This is a time for building a therapeutic relationship; history-taking; identifying goals for treatment; honing in on target behaviors; developing a diary card; getting oriented to core DBT theories, concepts, and strategies; solidifying commitment; etc. Assuming both parties continue to view DBT as a good treatment fit, group skills training would commence at the end of pre-treatment.

Download Application for Adult DBT Program here. Use this pass code: 5247

We strive to give you as much advance notice as possible so you can plan accordingly and, at the same time, appreciate your patience with our intake procedure.

Payment for Services

We are not within-network for any managed care companies, and we are not Medicare providers. If you choose to pursue reimbursement for out-of-network providers, please keep in mind that any reimbursement should be directed to you, as we do not accept checks from insurance companies.

We are currently enrolling for 3 new groups, to begin in February, utilizing the Unified Protocol! Please visit our UP page for more info!