What is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy, specifically a strain of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Renowned American psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed it as a way for mental health professionals to tackle bipolar personality disorder and find ways to help manage it. Throughout the years, it has been used to treat depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and self-harming/suicidal behaviors and thoughts.

Core principles and beliefs of DBT

At the core of dialectical behavior therapy is dialectics. In short, dialectics is a way of reasoning that develops when two opposing arguments are pitted against each other through dialogue and come to a conclusion that considers what is true from both arguments.

In therapy, dialectics becomes an avenue for patients to find a healthy balance between their current realities and life changes, significant or small. DBT therapists teach clients skills related to mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness to aid this kind of reasoning.

These should help them live a fuller life, help them find stability when it comes to their mental health, understand their emotions and feelings, and explore various healthy ways of ensuring that they don’t succumb to their mental health issues.

Goals of this type of therapy

The goal of this type of therapy is to help individuals, whether children or adults, find it in them to live a sound and peaceful life where they can ward off distressing thoughts, healthily navigate themselves through distressing situations, accept changes without buckling under the potential pressures such changes can exert on them, help them build a support system, and help them maintain healthy relationships.

Printable DBT House PDF

Download this DBT House PDF to help individuals, whether children or adults, find it in them to live a sound and peaceful life.

What is a DBT house?

The DBT house is a concept and exercise used by DBT therapists to help their patients/clients examine their emotions, their core values, goals and aspirations, coping strategies, and relationships. The house is a representation of a safe space where they can discuss all of these.

A typical DBT house will have the following components:

  • The foundation: this represents the patient’s core values and beliefs
  • The walls: these represent a patient’s boundaries and support systems
  • The roof: these represent the people or things that protect the patient
  • The chimney: these represent a patient’s coping mechanisms
  • The front door: this represents a patient’s ability to let a person into their life
  • The windows: these represent what their goals are as well as their perspectives on things
  • The basement: these are the things that the patient usually hides
  • First floor: this represents the things in their life they want to change
  • Second floor: this represents the kinds of emotions and feelings they want to experience
  • Third floor: this represents what they feel happy about or what they want to be happy about
  • Fourth floor: this represents their view of what a perfect life is for them
  • Billboard in the background: this represents anything that they’re proud of

All a person needs to do is fill all these out with drawings and text in any order they want!

What questions does this worksheet ask?

Since there are many blank spaces, here are questions that DBT house worksheets usually ask people to help them draw their DBT house:

  • Foundation: What are your core values?
  • Walls: Who supports you? Make sure that these are the people you truly count on.
  • Roof: Who protects you and makes you feel safe?
  • Chimney: How do you blow off steam/cope?
  • Front door: How easy can you open up to people?
  • Windows: What are your dreams and aspirations? How do you view certain things like what’s popular, what’s not popular, your hobbies, religion, societal norms, etc.?
  • The basement: What do you usually hide from others?
  • First floor: What aspects of your life would you like to change?
  • Second floor: What feelings and emotions would you like to experience more?
  • Third floor: What do you feel happy about? What do you want to feel happy about?
  • Fourth floor: To you, what is a life worth living, and what does that look like for you?
  • Billboard: What are you proud of?

The general instruction is to draw all these to fill the house. They can also write about them if they choose to or elaborate on their drawings during a DBT session.

How does our DBT House PDF template work?

We at Carepatron created a DBT house template that you can issue to your patients or answer for yourself! DBT therapists will often have the patient draw a house from scratch based on their instructions, but there’s a pre-drawn house for our template!

The person engaging with it will need to do two things:

  • They need to draw things for each component by following the guide questions for the house portion.
  • After the house portion, they will have a written portion to elaborate on their drawings.

People can tackle the DBT house however they want and in any order.

DBT House PDF example

Now that you know what a DBT house is and how our template works, it’s time to see what it looks like!

On the first page is the pre-drawn DBT house drawing. Again, for this portion, people need to draw things based on the guide questions, which can be found beside the DBT house.

For this example, we wrote down what you’ll see in each section of the house based on the fictional patient who answered it.

On the next page is the writing portion. Each section of the house has its section in this portion. Each one has several lines for people to elaborate on what they drew, especially the parts about their goals and views on what an ideal life is for them.

Download our free DBT House PDF template example here

DBT House PDF example

If you like what you see and believe this is a good way to get your DBT patients to elaborate on the problems they’re dealing with, including what they want to do about them, feel free to download our template!

Benefits of using this DBT worksheet

Here are the benefits of using our printable DBT worksheet:

It’s a great way to get to know patients

It can’t be understated how difficult it is to get certain therapy patients to talk. It shouldn’t be surprising since talking about mental health issues is exceptionally touchy, especially if it involves trauma and other severe and highly personal things.

Therapists must establish rapport and trust with patients. Even if those have been established, their patients might still be shy or apprehensive about sharing things about themselves. Still, they need to do so to get the ball rolling. Worksheets can help immensely because if patients have difficulty articulating themselves through speech, they may do so through drawings and writing.

It can help patients understand how they feel.

Mental health problems can be so distressing that many people don’t want to think about them when they have the chance. This prevents them from creating distance to examine and interrogate how they feel. By having them engage with this worksheet, they will have the opportunity to finally think about how they’ve been feeling, what they want to change or what they can’t accept changing for now, what they’re proud of, who they can lean on, and what their goals are. They might gain insights and epiphanies about themselves through this worksheet.

Why use Carepatron as your DBT software?

If you are a dialectical behavior therapist, we hope this served as an excellent refresher to the DBT house concept. We also hope our worksheet template helps you understand your patients better and helps them work through what they’re dealing with.

While we still have you, we’d like to ask for your time to check more of the Carepatron platform if you haven’t. We have a wide variety of nifty features, and we’re confident they’re fantastic and helpful enough that you’ll consider us your number-one mental health and therapy practice management software. We won’t get into those features here, but we’d like to highlight one: our resource library.

Our resource library houses a treasure trove of clinical and non-clinical healthcare resources. It also covers numerous healthcare fields, especially mental health and therapy.

Earlier, we said that it can’t be understated how difficult it can be to get therapy patients to open up. We also said one way to get the ball rolling is to have them engage with worksheets such as the DBT House template we made. We’d like you to know that we have hundreds of therapy worksheets you can use, especially for dialectical behavior therapy!

We have worksheets that can help them unpack their current interpersonal relationships. We have those that focus on emotional regulation, mindfulness, distress tolerance, goal setting, problem-solving, and more. If you need more worksheets to add to your roster, read our guides and download as many of our templates for free!

Subscribe now and be one of our (Care)patrons to enhance your therapeutic work!

DBT software
Can a non-therapy patient use this worksheet?
Can a non-therapy patient use this worksheet?

Commonly asked questions

Can a non-therapy patient use this worksheet?

Yes. This worksheet is free and can be used by anyone. If a person believes this can help unpack things for them, by all means, they can use it! We just want to remind people that this shouldn’t be a substitute for therapy, though. We recommend seeing a dialectical behavior therapist so that professional help can be provided.

What are the next steps after submitting this back to a therapist?

The therapist and patient will discuss what’s written on the worksheet. This can be the jumping point for developing coping strategies and teaching DBT skills to patients.

What will therapists do with the information provided in the worksheet?

They will keep the information confidential. They may reuse them later on to check on a patient’s progress, like how far they’ve come since the beginning of the therapy program. The worksheet can be used again to compare how a patient was before and how they are now.

Join 10,000+ teams using Carepatron to be more productive

One app for all your healthcare work