Dialectical Behavior Therapy. What is DBT Therapy, DBT Techniques & DBT Worksheets

Call us when you feel ready or want someone to speak to about DBT therapy alternatives to change your life. Even if we cannot assist you, we will lead you wherever you can get support. There is no obligation. Call our help hotline today.

By We Level Up FL Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: April 4, 2023

What is DBT Therapy? DBT Therapy Meaning

What’s DBT Therapy? DBT Therapy Definition: Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). The patient populations for which DBT has the most empirical support include parasuicidal women with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Still, there have been promising findings for patients with BPD and substance use disorders (SUDs), persons who meet the criteria for binge-eating disorder, and depressed elderly patients.

What Does DBT Therapy Stand For? What Is DBT In Therapy?

What does DBT stand for in therapy? Although DBT Therapy has many similarities with other cognitive-behavioral approaches, several critical and unique elements must be in place for the treatment to constitute DBT.

Some of these elements include:

  1. Serving the five functions of treatment.
  2. The biosocial theory and focusing on emotions in treatment.
  3. A consistent dialectical philosophy.
  4. Mindfulness and acceptance-oriented interventions.

DBT Therapy Techniques

DBT teaches the four fundamental skills mentioned above using three different therapy approaches. Some people think that DBT’s effectiveness is partly due to its combination of strategies.

One-on-one therapy

DBT typically entails weekly individual therapy sessions lasting an hour. Throughout these sessions, you will discuss whatever you’re working on or attempting to manage with your therapist.

During this period, your therapist will help you develop your skills and handle specific difficulties.

DBT Group TherapyDBT Therapy Groups Near Me: Skills training

DBT group therapy near me: A skills training group (DBT therapy group near me), similar to a group therapy session, is a component of DBT. Once a week, for two to three hours, skill groups often meet. Although most DBT programs repeat the skills training, the program lasts a whole year, and the meetings typically last 24 weeks.

Group DBT TherapyGroup Therapy DBT

You will learn about and practice each skill in a skills group while discussing scenarios with others. One of the essential elements of DBT is this.

Online DBT Therapy & Phone Coaching

In addition to phone coaching, some therapists provide it as additional support between one-on-one sessions. If you frequently experience feelings of overload or require extra help, keeping this in your back pocket would be a good idea.

Your therapist will instruct you on how to apply your DBT techniques to the current situation over the phone.

Is DBT Therapy Online Effective?

Online DBT Therapy For BPD Free: DBT online therapy is just as successful as in-person counseling, according to recent studies. Even while your family and friends can be a source of encouragement, DBT therapists online are specialists with specialized knowledge and training who can support you when things get tough. Always look for recommendations to find the best online DBT therapy.

How Long Is DBT Therapy?

The typical duration of dialectical behavior treatment (DBT) is between six and twelve months. However, because each person is different and mental health issues are complicated, After a year of DBT, you shouldn’t anticipate being free of symptoms or having troublesome behaviors.

DBT Therapy What Is It? Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT therapy) is a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD)
DBT Therapy What Is It? Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT therapy) is a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Other Forms of Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT

DBT Art Therapy

DBT and art therapy use psychotherapy principles, which help connect the two therapeutic modalities. Additionally, art therapy offers a way to practice mindfulness art-making to control emotions and reduce anxiety.

DBT Couples Therapy

In couples and relationship therapy, DBT adopts a nonjudgmental stance that encourages acceptance and support of one’s partner and oneself. Developing a mindful awareness of my own experience from moment to moment is another way to say this. as well as awareness of my relationship with my partner. Additionally, knowledge of what I experience in this present moment.

DBT Family Therapy

Living with an emotionally sensitive family member can be fun, challenging, annoying, and confusing. It can be difficult for family members and friends to balance their needs and sentiments with their obligations to these sensitive people. Each course equips participants with the knowledge and skills to support and care for a loved one more effectively.

DBT Therapy For Anxiety

DBT is a powerful therapy method for managing anxiety. Distress tolerance skills can aid when anxiety is strong and intense, such as during a panic attack. By changing body temperature, DBT helps reduce anxiety by focusing on the physical sensations of anxiety.

Dialectical behavior therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat personality disorders and interpersonal conflicts.
Dialectical behavior therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat personality disorders and interpersonal conflicts.

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Bipolar Disorder Fact Sheet

Bipolar Overview

A condition characterized by mood swings ranging from manic to depressive highs.
Although the precise origin of bipolar disease is unknown, genetics, the environment, and changed brain chemistry may all be contributory factors.
High activity, a decreased need for sleep, and a loss of reality are all signs of manic episodes.

Low energy, lack of motivation, and a loss of interest in daily tasks are all possible indicators of depressive episodes. Mood swings can linger for days or months, sometimes accompanied by suicidal thoughts. Most of the time, treatment is lifelong and includes both medicine and psychotherapy.

Bipolar Treatments

Therapy: Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Support group, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Psychoeducation, Family therapy, and Psychotherapy

Medications: Anticonvulsant, Antipsychotic, and SSRIs.

Palliative care: Hospitalization

Bipolar Symptoms

Mood: mood swings, sadness, elevated mood, anger, anxiety, apathy, apprehension, euphoria, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, or loss of interest or pleasure in activities

Behavioral: irritability, risk-taking behaviors, disorganized behavior, aggression, agitation, crying, excess desire for sex, hyperactivity, impulsivity, restlessness, or self-harm

Cognitive: unwanted thoughts, delusion, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, slowness in activity, or false belief of superiority

Psychological: depression, manic episode, agitated depression, or paranoia

Weight: weight gain or weight loss

Sleep: difficulty falling asleep or excess sleepiness

Also common: fatigue or pressure of speech

Bipolar Disorder Statistics


An estimated 82.9% of people with bipolar disorder had a severe impairment, the highest percent serious impairment among mood disorders.

Source: National Institute on Mental Health


An estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time.

Source: National Institute on Mental Health


The prevalence of bipolar disorder among adolescents was higher for females (3.3%) than for males (2.6%).

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy DBT Therapy WorksheetsDBT Therapy Worksheets Free

DBT Therapy Books

DBT For Dummies by Gillian Galen and Blaise AguirreDBT Therapy Workbook

DBT For Dummies demonstrates how DBT can teach new ways to actively take control of self-destructive behaviors and negative thought patterns, not just how to reverse them. This enables you to change a life of struggle into one full of promise and meaning. It was written in a no-jargon, friendly style by two of the best from Harvard Medical School.

This book’s techniques and skills will change your life if used correctly and consistently. When you can better manage your emotions, interact with others in productive ways, handle stressful situations, and practice mindfulness daily, it’s simpler to recognize the positive aspects of yourself and the world and act accordingly.

A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters by
Steven C. Hayes

The creator and early researcher of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) outline the psychological flexibility techniques that make it one of the most effective strategies research has yet to give in this seminal work. It has been demonstrated that these abilities are helpful even when other strategies have failed.

Science demonstrates that they are beneficial in almost every area, including mental health (anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, PTSD); physical health (chronic pain, managing diabetes; coping with cancer); social processes (relationship problems; prejudice; stigma; domestic violence); and performance (sports, business, diet, exercise).

ACTivate Your Life: Using acceptance and mindfulness to build a life that is rich, fulfilling, and fun by Joe Oliver, Jon Hill, and Eric Morris

In addition to addressing issues like poor self-esteem, anxiety, anger, and depression, ACTivate Your Life assists individuals in becoming more open, connected, and involved with their lives. It also offers techniques for self-improvement and life enhancement.

The author challenges readers to reflect on their own beliefs and teaches them how to develop goals for their lives based on these principles. Additionally, readers will learn about mindfulness and how to apply it to their daily lives to connect with their actions, experiences, and those around them. The ACT method emphasizes that having unpleasant thoughts and sensations is a natural part of being human and that the most crucial thing is to deal with them.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT

What Does DBT Treat? CBT Vs DBT Therapy

Parasuicidal patients with BPD. For parasuicidal BPD patients, the most consistent finding is that DBT results in superior reductions in parasuicidal behavior compared with control conditions. 

Patients in the DBT condition had more significant reductions in suicide attempts, deliberate self-harm, inpatient days, suicidal ideation, impulsivity, anger, and global mental health problems.

DBT Therapy For BPD

Women with BPD and substance use disorders. The second patient group for which DBT has demonstrated promising data consists of women with BPD and a substance use disorder (SUD).

DBT Meaning Therapy: DBT Therapy is a type of talking therapy. It is also mostly used for substance abuse treatment programs.
DBT Meaning Therapy: DBT Therapy is a type of talking therapy. It is also mostly used for substance abuse treatment programs.

The first study in this area for women who met the criteria for BPD and SUD found that DBT patients showed more significant reductions in drug use during the 12-month treatment and through the four-month follow-up period and had lower dropout rates during treatment.

Other clinical populations and problems. Additionally, some research has examined DBT-oriented treatments for different clinical issues, including eating disorders and depression in elderly patients. 

What’s The Difference Between CBT And DBT? What Is DBT Therapy Vs CBT? CBT Vs DBT

Difference Between DBT And CBT (DBT Vs CBT)

DBT and CBT: One of the greatest available treatments for various mental diseases is psychotherapy. The term “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” refers to one of the most popular types of therapy (CBT). CBT, often known as talk therapy, focuses on discussing your issues to change how you view them. If you believe your thoughts, such as “I am a failure,” are constantly in charge. Nothing I try to do turns out well. CBT can help you use logic and reason to flip the script and be in charge of your ideas instead of allowing your thoughts to dominate you. “No one will like me if they see who I really am.”

CBT DBT therapy: According to CBT, we can change how we think about and respond to situations to feel better. This is because our thoughts and behaviors impact how we feel. However, not all mental diseases respond well to traditional CBT. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a popular subset of therapy. DBT is a more focused variation of CBT that aims to assist persons with a propensity for intense emotional reactions to connect with their surroundings in a less dynamic, healthier way.

CBT therapy vs DBT: Are CBT and DBT really that different from one another, and can one be better than the other given their similar names? Continue reading to discover the distinctions between CBT and DBT and determine which will benefit you the most.

DBT Therapy Vs CBT: CBT is a General Term (DBT CBT)

CBT is a general term for treatments that have similar traits. CBT comes in a variety of forms, among them DBT. CBT therapists frequently use talk therapy and rely on several guiding principles. These qualities consist of the following:

  • Treats Emotional Response: based on the notion that our thoughts affect our emotions; thus, altering our thoughts and responses to circumstances will make us feel better.
  • Limited to a Specific Amount of Time: After receiving treatment for a while, most patients will begin implementing CBT techniques independently with little assistance from a mental health professional. Clients may move on to a different style of treatment to address a particular trauma or other issues that still hurts or serves as a barrier to healthy living if the mood or behavior issues linger.
  • A positive therapeutic alliance between the patient and the therapist is essential for CBT to be effective. Patients should seek someone they respect and feel at ease with because therapy is individualized.
  • Relies on Cognitive and Rational Processes: CBT encourages patients to use logic and reason to guide their responses to events rather than letting their emotions take complete control.
  • Uses Structure to Guide Treatment: Therapists use strategies and approaches in each session for an apparent reason. They determine which CBT ideas will be most helpful to the client based on those goals and then customize each one accordingly.

CBT or DBT? Although DBT is a form of CBT, it is designed to support people in acknowledging their pain and suffering while feeling safe and “fine” in the present and empowered to select healthy behaviors over impulsive or dangerous ones. Patients are taught to recognize external triggers and pair those triggers with a healthy coping strategy or response, with some emphasis on dealing with thoughts.

CBT And DBT for Treating Certain Illnesses (CBT DBT)

Different mental diseases react differently to treatment. An effective therapy method for anxiety and sadness may worsen eating disorders or personality problems.

Compared to other forms of therapy, CBT is very effective at treating depression and is more likely to cause depression to enter remission. Given that it gives patients power over their rehabilitation, this therapy approach has also been effectively reduced anxiety. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeping problems have all been demonstrated to benefit from CBT.

To aid people with borderline personality disorder, DBT was developed. DBT doesn’t try to assist people in understanding or talk through their problems; instead, it concentrates on changing their behavior patterns. When patients experience tremendous emotions of pain and rejection—the sensation of moving through a world full of knives—they often develop habits of strong emotional reactions and impulsive behaviors.

For people who deal with self-harm behaviors like cutting and persistent suicidal thoughts, DBT is frequently the most successful therapy. Survivors of sexual trauma benefit from DBT approaches as well.

What Is The Difference Between CBT And DBT? Philosophies Used in DBT Versus CBT

CBT emphasizes logic and reasoning, which are central to Socratic Method and Stoic philosophy. The Socratic Method employs critical thinking to challenge presumptions. This is effective for people who struggle with anxiety and despair because it enables them to approach their issues logically.

For instance, clients who experience feelings of inadequacy and failure are instructed to consider the facts. When have they actually been able to achieve a goal? Exist any other individuals—friends, family, or coworkers—who could attest to the client’s achievement in other contexts? Who or what are they measuring their achievement against? Is this an accurate comparison?

DBT largely depends on mindfulness techniques found in Zen and Buddhist traditions. To learn to live with suffering in the world and accept things as they are, rather than enduring agony by trying to change them, DBT encourages patients to employ specific mindfulness practices.

The Difference in Treatment Methods: DBT Vs CBT Therapy (CBT And DBT Therapy)

CBT versus DBT: CBT focuses on the interplay between your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. While DBT does address these issues, a greater emphasis is placed on emotional regulation, mindfulness, and learning to accept discomfort. In order to help patients manage their thoughts, CBT teaches them ways to identify when they may become problematic. With the aid of DBT, patients can learn to accept themselves, feel secure, and control their emotions, which can help them control potentially dangerous or destructive behaviors.

Clients who get DBT therapy take part in four modules of DBT skills training sessions, which are often taught in a group setting. Most patients also have weekly sessions with a DBT therapist or coach and can call in for DBT coaching when they need it most. Sometimes patients can move on to more traditional CBT groups to address particular detrimental thought patterns or recurrent harmful behaviors once they are able to apply DBT methods to control their emotions, exercise mindfulness, and enhance connections with others.

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How Does DBT Work?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) evolved from Marsha Linehan’s efforts to create a treatment for multiproblematic, suicidal women. Linehan combed through the literature on efficacious psychosocial treatments for other disorders, such as anxiety disorders, depression, and other emotion-related difficulties, and assembled a package of evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral interventions that directly targeted suicidal behavior. Initially, these interventions were so focused on changing cognitions and behaviors that many patients felt criticized, misunderstood, and invalidated, and consequently dropped out of treatment altogether.

Through an interplay of science and practice, clinical experiences with multiproblematic, suicidal patients sparked further research and treatment development. Most notably, Linehan weaved into the treatment interventions designed to convey acceptance of the patient and to help the patient accept herself, her emotions, thoughts, the world, and others. As such, DBT came to rest on a foundation of dialectical philosophy, whereby therapists strive to continually balance and synthesize acceptance and change-oriented strategies.

A DBT therapist will expect and encourage you to work hard to make positive changes.
A DBT therapist will expect and encourage you to work hard to make positive changes.

What Is DBT Therapy Used For?

Ultimately, this work culminated in a comprehensive, evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). The standard DBT treatment package consists of weekly individual therapy sessions (approximately 1 hour), a weekly group skills training session (approximately 1.5–2.5 hours), and a therapist consultation team meeting (approximately 1–2 hours). At present, eight published, well-controlled, randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have demonstrated that DBT is an efficacious and specific treatment for BPD and related problems.

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Pros And Cons Of DBT Therapy

Benefits of DBT Therapy & DBT Therapy Examples

Five functions of treatment. DBT is a comprehensive treatment program consisting of individual therapy, group therapy, and a therapist consultation team. In this way, DBT is a program of treatment rather than a single treatment method conducted by a practitioner in isolation. Often, clinicians are interested in applying DBT but find implementing such a comprehensive treatment daunting.

In this case, it is essential to remember that the most critical element of any DBT program is whether it addresses the five key treatment functions. Although the standard package of DBT has the most empirical support, different settings, and circumstances may necessitate innovative and creative applications of DBT. In all cases, however, it is critical that any adaptation of DBT fulfills the following five functions:

1. Enhancing capabilities

Within DBT, the assumption is that patients with BPD either lack or need to improve several essential life skills, including those that involve:

  1. Regulating emotions (emotion regulation skills).
  2. Paying attention to the experience of the present moment and regulating attention (mindfulness skills).
  3. Effectively navigating interpersonal situations (interpersonal effectiveness).
  4. Tolerating distress and surviving crises without worsening situations (distress tolerance skills).

2. Generalizing capabilities

If the skills learned in therapy sessions do not transfer to patients’ daily lives, then it would be difficult to say that therapy was successful. As a result, a second critical function of DBT involves generalizing treatment gains to the patient’s natural environment.

This function is accomplished in skills training by providing homework assignments to practice skills and troubleshooting regarding improving skills practice. In individual therapy sessions, therapists help patients apply new skills in their daily lives and often have patients practice or apply skillful behaviors in sessions. In addition, the therapist is available by phone between sessions to help the patient use skills when they are most needed (e.g., in a crisis).

In these sessions of DBT Therapy, the therapists will teach you skills in a group setting. This is not group therapy, but more like a series of teaching sessions.
In these sessions of DBT Therapy, the therapists will teach you skills in a group setting. This is not group therapy, but more like a series of teaching sessions.

3. Improving motivation and reducing dysfunctional behaviors

The third function of DBT involves improving patients’ motivation to change and lowering behaviors inconsistent with a life worth living. This function is primarily accomplished in individual therapy.

After prioritizing the behavioral targets for a given session, the therapist helps the patient determine what led up to the behavior(s) and the consequences that may be reinforcing or maintaining the behavior(s). The therapist also helps the patient find ways to apply skillful, effective behavior, solve problems in life, or regulate emotions. In enhancing motivation, the therapist actively gets the patient to commit to behavior change, using various “commitment” strategies.

DBT Therapy combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality testing.
DBT Therapy combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality testing.

4. Enhancing and maintaining therapist capabilities and motivation

Another important function of DBT involves maintaining the motivation and skills of the therapists who treat patients with BPD. Although helping multiproblematic BPD patients can be stimulating and rewarding, these patients also engage in a potent mix of behaviors that can tax the coping resources, competencies, and resolve of their treatment providers (i.e., suicide attempts, repeated suicidal crises, behaviors that interfere with therapy). As a result, one essential ingredient of an effective treatment for BPD patients is providing support, validation, continued training and skill-building, feedback, and encouragement to therapists.

To address this function, standard DBT includes a therapist consultation-team meeting, for which DBT therapists meet once weekly for approximately 1 to 2 hours. The team helps therapists problem-solve ways to implement effective treatment in the face of specific clinical challenges (e.g., a suicidal patient or a patient who misses sessions).

5. Structuring the environment

An important function of DBT involves structuring the environment that reinforces effective behavior/progress and does not reinforce maladaptive or problematic behavior. Often, this consists of structuring the treatment to promote progress most effectively. In DBT, the individual therapist is the primary therapist and is “in charge” of the treatment team. They ensure that all of the elements of effective treatment are in place and that all of these functions are met.

Structuring the environment may also involve helping patients find ways to modify their environments. For instance, drug-using patients may need to learn how to alter or avoid social circles that promote drug use; patients who self-harm sometimes need to know how to make sure that their partners or significant others do not reinforce self-harm (i.e., by being overly soothing, warm, or supportive). In DBT, the therapist typically has the patient modify their environment, but at times, may take an active role in changing patients’ environments for them (e.g., if the environment is overwhelming or too powerful for the patient to have a reasonable degree of influence).

Arguments Against DBT Dialectical Behavior Therapy

  • DBT behavioral therapy necessitates a substantial time investment (from the consumer and the clinician).
  • DBT dialectical behavioral therapy has a lot of abilities, which could be overwhelming. Customers who could benefit from it might find it too complicated and hesitant to attempt it.
  • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy DBT includes homework, which might not be suitable for everyone.
  • DBT is organized, and it requires that limits be established and upheld.
  • DBT lacks the formal trauma processing that some patients may need to heal from a traumatic experience or experience fully.
  • Since some aspects of DBT are taken from Eastern religious concepts, clients with Western-influenced religious beliefs (such as those of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) could find Zen Buddhist teachings offensive.

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DBT Therapy SkillsDBT Therapy Training

You can utilize the four primary DBT skills—sometimes called modules—to manage emotional discomfort in a healthy, helpful way. Linehan refers to these four abilities as the “active components” of DBT.

You can work toward accepting your ideas and behaviors by practicing mindfulness and distress tolerance. You can alter your thoughts and behaviors by developing your ability to manage your emotions and interact effectively with others.

DBT therapy steps:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Emotion regulation

How Can I Find a DBT Therapy Near Me? Best DBT Therapy Near Me

DBT is a type of therapy often used to reduce symptoms of BPD, but it also has some other uses. If you often feel emotional distress and want to learn new coping strategies, DBT Therapy may be a good fit for you.

Please, don’t feel isolated. Even if you have failed previously, relapsed, or are in a complex crisis, we stand ready to support you. Our trusted behavioral health specialists will not give up on you. If you cannot cope with everyday living, you already grasp you require aid, Now.

Call us when you feel ready or want someone to speak to about DBT therapy alternatives to change your life. Even if we cannot assist you, we will lead you wherever you can get support. There is no obligation. Simply call our help hotline today.

We Level Up Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center For Cognitive And Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT (DBT Therapy Center)

DBT Therapy Miami: The definition of dual diagnosis (also referred to as co-occurring disorders) can differ between institutions. However, it is generally described as the specific treatment of someone diagnosed with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder simultaneously. Treating dual-diagnosis clients is a critical aspect of our inpatient treatment experience because co-occurring disorders are strongly correlated with instances of substance abuse.

Creating a treatment plan that addresses the physical aspects of withdrawal, the psychological connection with drug use, and managing underlying mental health disorders is part of setting clients up for success.  A thorough mental health analysis identifies possibilities for treatment.  Meeting with mental health counselors and medical care providers means access to behavioral therapy and medication treatment. At our dual diagnosis treatment center, We Level Up can implement the highest quality of care. 

We recognize the fragile complexities of how mental and substance abuse disorders can influence others and sometimes result in a vicious cycle of addiction.  That’s why we offer specialized treatment in dual-diagnosis cases to provide the most excellent chance of true healing and long-lasting recovery.

Accepting that you may be living with a mental illness can be challenging. However, treating the presenting substance abuse case can be magnitudes easier once properly diagnosed and treated. Only a properly trained medical professional can diagnose these underlying conditions.  If you believe you are suffering from a disorder alongside addiction, we urge you to seek a qualified treatment center to begin your journey to recovery. Call We Level Up today.

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