Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a form of talk therapy. More specifically, it falls under the umbrella of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Thus, both approaches aim to address distorted thought patterns as a way of preventing unhealthy behaviors. What sets DBT apart is its focus on acceptance. Throughout the treatment process, a DBT therapist will encourage you to accept who you are right now.
This is why “dialectical” is in the title. You are being asked to simultaneously create change while accepting yourself as you are. This concept reassures clients that they are not uniquely flawed even as they strive to address their challenges.
Some DBT Basics
You are being guided to identify and accept negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. At the same time, DBT teaches you the skills you need to manage these issues. From this foundation, you are well-positioned to create the positive changes you desire.
Generally speaking, DBT treatment:
- Individual therapy
- Group training
- Phone coaching (if needed)
- Homework (including “diary cards” of emotions, urges, etc.)
How Does DBT Work?
Those undergoing DBT treatment will learn four ways to develop productive life skills. These are:
- Distress tolerance: Problems and the distress they cause are inevitable. Hence, DBT helps you navigate these experiences without defaulting to coping choices like self-injury, self-medication, or other impulsive choices.
- Emotion regulation: Once again, strong emotions are unavoidable. They become manageable when you are able to recognize them, name them, and adapt them. DBT is a powerful avenue in this direction.
- Mindfulness: Instead of using the past as your compass, mindfulness eases you into being attentive to the present moment. This is precisely where the solutions lie.
- Interpersonal effectiveness: DBT helps you combine the above three skills into practical applications. These might include dealing with conflict and finding healthy ways to be assertive.
All of the above falls into four clear stages:
- Identify and treat the highest priority issues (like self-harm or suicide attempts)
- Cultivate skills that increase your quality of life (see the list directly above this one)
- Improving both your self-esteem and your relationships
- Living a life that includes fulfilling relationships and more overall joy
Unlike CBT, DBT is not a short-term treatment. It runs a course that can range from six months to a year. However, it has a solid track record for treating a wide range of issues and conditions.
What Is DBT Used For?
Anyone with emotional regulation issues would be well-served to explore DBT as an option. More specifically, it can be effective in treating conditions like:
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse
- Self-injury and impulsive behaviors
- Suicidal behavior
- Eating disorders (e.g. binge eating disorder and bulimia)
- Relationship problems
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
DBT has become a front-line, go-to choice for challenging, high-risk patients — including those with multiple diagnoses. In the case of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association. Patients with BPD, when treated with DBT, have shown results like:
- Fewer and shorter hospitalizations
- Sticking to treatment longer
- Reduction in suicidal behavior
- Decreased anger
- Better functioning in social settings
How Can Patients Improve Their Results With DBT?
- Be ready and committed to participating in therapy
- Do your homework
- Maintain a strong desire to create the positive changes you seek
- Not overly dwelling on the past
- Be willing to work in a group setting
Is DBT Right For You or Someone You Know?
Are you struggling with negative and extreme emotions? Have you been able to find ways to control your thoughts, feelings, and actions? DBT is designed to guide you toward the healthiest way to manage such problems. You probably have questions. we’re here to help you find the best possible answers. Reach out to us soon to learn more about DBT.