DBT Phone Coaching

DBT Phone coaching is a vital component considered essential to the success of any dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program. While in most therapeutic modalities therapists and clients have minimal contact with each other outside of scheduled face-to-face sessions, the opposite is true with DBT.

To support coping with symptoms that may arise between in-person therapy sessions, DBT clients are actually encouraged to initiate phone contact with their individual therapist or designated skills coach during times of crisis or distress. This means DBT therapists are accessible during day and evening hours for phone coaching throughout the duration of the therapy. Therapists may set their own hours and limits for when they are available to take phone calls, and phone coaching should be used thoughtfully. While therapists won’t want their clients to call just to chat about their day, clients are encouraged to pick up the phone and get in touch whenever they feel in need of therapeutic assistance.

Some Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) clients are reluctant to take advantage of DBT phone coaching because they are hesitant to “bother” their therapists or they feel they aren’t worth the extra support. However, it’s important that these clients are able to find the confidence to make the call and consult with their therapists, especially when thoughts and behaviors relating to suicide and self-harm present themselves.

It’s during highly stressful circumstances such as suicidal thinking that phone coaching can be most effective.  Here, the therapist can talk the client through an emotionally trying time in an effort to reduce and prevent harmful thoughts or self-injurious behaviors. For instance, a client who is struggling with a recent relationship or job loss may experience the urge to inflict self-harm. This is where phone coaching can be of tremendous assistance; therapists can guide clients to apply learned DBT skills such as distress tolerance to best cope with severe emotion dysregulation without engaging in destructive behavior.

Phone coaching not only helps clients to successfully deal with difficult situations in the moment, it can also increase clients’ general ability to apply skills to real life challenges outside of therapy. The ultimate goal is to empower clients to handle stressful events more confidently, with the eventual goal of being able to get through them on their own. In short, the goal is to help clients generalize the skills to their natural environment.

Research findings support DBT phone coaching as a valuable therapeutic tool in the treatment of clients in crisis. Several studies have indicated that telephone coaching plays an important role in psychological intervention and offers valuable assistance to clients in times of need. Knowing the best timing for using phone coaching can help both client and therapist maximize the efficacy of this essential DBT approach.

Reasons to Use DBT Phone Coaching

The three primary purposes for DBT phone coaching include:

  1. To reduce suicidal/non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors. When clients are experiencing an emotional crisis, they are encouraged to call their therapists for support and skills coaching. During a crisis call, clients will be coached through use of distress tolerance skills.
  2. To get feedback and suggestions when practicing learned DBT skills. Applying skills effectively in real life situations is one of the main goals of DBT. As a result, phone coaching is recommended whenever the client needs practical assistance as they apply the learned skills in their everyday life.
  3. To strengthen the relationship with therapist. There may be instances in which a client feels that a problem exists in the therapeutic relationship that might interfere with the efficacy of their treatment. During these times, clients are encouraged to contact their therapists on the phone to discuss any perceived problem or conflict in the relationship.

DBT recognizes that important change for clients occurs not only in the therapy room, but also in the real world. Phone coaching presents an ideal way to assist clients in time of crisis outside the therapy room, helping them to apply the DBT skills they’ve learned to effectively shape positive change in their everyday lives.