Western Psych Receives Award to Implement DBT Program Designed to Help Patients with Treatment-Resistant Disorders

“Many programs are Dialectic Behavioral Therapy-informed,” explained Jatinder Babbar, MD, “but it is challenging to implement a full-fidelity DBT program.”

Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based practice originally designed for individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. However, DBT is often used more broadly for people who require a higher level of care for multiple, often treatment-resistant, psychiatric diagnoses. 

A recent award from Allegheny County Office of Behavioral Health, Community Care Behavioral Health and Allegheny HealthChoices, Inc. enables UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital Adult Mood and Anxiety Disorder Ambulatory Clinic, as well as the Heritage Valley Health System Staunton Clinic, to provide behavioral health clinicians with the extensive training necessary to implement full-fledged DBT. Until now, DBT has played an important role in the behavioral health care provided by the Adult Mood and Anxiety Disorder Clinic, but without full fidelity to the program, which requires potentially costly and time-consuming training. The Community Care award will allow the Clinic to deliver DBT within the five treatment components: individual therapy, group skills training, phone consultation, case management and a therapist consultation team. 

Dr. Babbar, in collaboration with Tiffany Painter (Program Director, Intensive Outpatient Program and Partial Hospitalization Program) and Kelly O’Toole (Director, Clinical Care Services) foresee a substantial increase in the Clinic’s ability to effectively care for patients for whom traditional treatment has been ineffective, and who may be at high risk for suicide or have experienced repeat hospitalizations. The full DBT protocol is evidence-based and efficient. “More isn’t always better,” explains Painter. “High-needs patients often receive lots and lots of services that are ultimately unhelpful. DBT is a great option for people in that situation.” 

Moreover, DBT—which emphasizes the development of living-well skills including emotion regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and mindfulness—is empowering for patients. “DBT helps people who are emotionally vulnerable and who may require enhancement of certain coping skills,” says O’Toole, who oversees the program. “With this treatment, they can develop the necessary strategies to manage their lives.”