What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
Dialectical behavior therapy, often known as DBT, is a form of treatment that teaches people to regulate their emotions and better handle emotional distress.
The term “dialectical” refers to the integration of two opposing concepts. In DBT, the therapist aims to help their client let go of extreme reactions or beliefs and find a sense of balance. DBT can help people free themselves from the black-and-white, “all-or-nothing” thinking that often inspires unhealthy emotional responses.
Counselors who utilize DBT with clients focus on teaching behavioral changes. Through DBT, people learn skills and strategies that will help them handle difficult situations in a healthier way. Mastering essential problem-solving skills can be empowering, and this approach allows clients to take control of their lives and make positive changes.
The History of Dialectical Behavior Therapy
In the late 1980s, Dr. Marsha Lineman and her team were applying CBT to treat patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and suicidal ideation. Disappointed in the results, they began incorporating additional skills-based techniques with the goal of helping their patients manage emotional responses in a healthy manner. This modified approach proved successful, and today, DBT is often considered the gold standard for BPD treatment. It’s also been effective in treating a wide range of other conditions, including depression and anxiety.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of DBT. In a study following 78 patients with BPD throughout one year of DBT, researchers found that 77% of the participants no longer met the criteria for BPD by the end of the year (Stiglmayr et. al. 2014). Furthermore, research has indicated that DBT combined with medication is a more effective treatment for individuals with depression than medication alone (Lynch et. al., 2006).
How Does DBT Work?
For people going through DBT, treatment primarily revolves around learning new skills. Overall, this approach to therapy aims to address emotional skill deficits in clients. Therapists will focus primarily on supporting clients in four specific areas; embracing the present moment through mindfulness, tolerating stressful situations, forming healthier relationships, and regulating painful emotions.
The extent to which DBT may be incorporated into a client’s treatment plan is related to the person’s specific needs and goals. Some folks are able to benefit from learning DBT skills in the context of individual therapy sessions. For others, a therapist may refer them to a group DBT program, or an “adherent” DBT program, so that the client can learn and practice the skills in a more intensive format. In either individual or group treatment, people going through DBT might be given skills-based homework assignments to complete between sessions.
DBT encompasses four distinct stages. In the first stage, the therapist helps their client shift from feeling out of control to gaining a sense of control. During the second stage, clients can begin to manage their emotional experiences. By the third stage, the client will define their own life goals and begin working towards these new objectives. Throughout the fourth and final stage, clients will develop a deeper capacity for joy.
Who Can Benefit From DBT?
People suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, ADHD, or PTSD can find relief through DBT. Furthermore, DBT can help those dealing with substance abuse, eating disorders, or self-harm.
Overall, DBT can be quite effective for people struggling with impulsivity or a lack of direction. The realization that you are in control of your emotions, and that you have agency over your own life, is one of the most valuable changes that DBT can bring about in your life.
Why We Offer Dialectical Behavior Therapy
At Affinity Psychological Services, we have several team members who specialize in treating clients with BPD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression and incorporate DBT into their approach to therapy. Some of our therapists have also worked in DBT treatment centers.
Many people who struggle with their mental health feel like they have lost control over their own lives, which exacerbates the symptoms of their conditions. Through DBT, our counselors help their clients take action to improve their own lives and boost their self-esteem. This enables them to feel more in control of their situation.
DBT can also be used for any client who benefits from working on their emotional regulation skills. As we are a large practice with a growing team, we treat a wide range of clients, and we find that techniques drawn from DBT are exceptionally helpful for many people. DBT enables clients to go beyond self-reflection and focus on skills they can apply in every area of their lives. Mastering these behavioral skills can be highly empowering, and clients can gain confidence that serves them in their personal and professional endeavors.
You Can Gain Agency Over Your Emotions
If you’re interested in working with a therapist who specializes in dialectical behavior therapy, you can learn more about our approach to treatment by reaching out on our contact page. If you want to schedule your first appointment, you can go to our scheduling page to book a session at one of our locations in Edina, Plymouth, St. Cloud, or Bloomington.