DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)


What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was developed by Marsha Linehan who is a best-selling author and professor of Psychology at the University of Washington.  The word “dialectic” means being able to hold 2 opposing views at the same time. The main ‘dialectic,’ or opposing views, are acceptance and change. This means that during therapy with a client, the therapist works to understand where they are now and validates that they are doing the best that they can with what they know. Although the therapist accepts the client and their experience as it is, they also help the client by encouraging them to create gradual change through eliminating patterns that yield negative results.  DBT focuses on the fact that once we can accept our current struggles as they are and as a part of our experience, we allow ourselves to make meaningful change.    

How Does DBT Help?  

The main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, cope healthily with stress, regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others.  The following characteristics of DBT are found in individual psychotherapy:

Support: You’ll be encouraged to recognize your positive strengths and attributes, develop, and use them. Behavioral: You’ll learn to analyze any problem or destructive behavior patterns and replace them with healthy and effective ones. Cognitive: You’ll focus on changing thoughts or beliefs and behavior or actions that are not effective or helpful.  Skill sets: You’ll learn new skills to enhance your capabilities. Acceptance and change: You’ll learn strategies to accept and tolerate your life, emotions, and yourself, as well as skills, to help you make positive changes in your behaviors and interactions with others. Collaboration: You’ll learn to communicate effectively with your treatment team and work together to develop a healthy support network. 

What Does DBT Work?

People are taught how to effectively change their behavior using four main strategies:·

Core Mindfulness: is perhaps the most important strategy in DBT.  It teaches you to focus on the present or“live in the moment.” By doing so, you can learn to pay attention to what’s going on inside of you (thoughts, feelings, sensations, impulses) as well as what’s outside of you (what you see, hear, smell, and touch) in non-judgment always. These skills will help you to slow down so you can focus on healthy coping skills in the midst of emotional pain. Mindfulness can help you to stay calm and avoid engaging in automatic negative thought patterns and impulsive behavior.  Distress Tolerance: teaches you to accept yourself and the current situation. More specifically, you learn how to tolerate or survive crises using four techniques: distraction, self-soothing, improving the moment, and thinking of the pros and cons of not tolerating distress. By learning distress tolerance techniques, you’ll be able to prepare in advance for any intense emotions and cope with them with a more positive long-term outlook. Interpersonal Effectiveness: helps you to become more assertive in a relationship (for example, expressing needs and saying “no”) while still keeping that relationship positive and healthy. This happens by learning to listen and communicate effectively, deal with difficult people, and respect yourself and others.  Emotional Regulation: provides a set of skills that helps one more effectively navigate powerful feelings. It teaches you to identify, name, and change your emotions. By recognizing and coping with intense negative emotions (for example, anger), you can reduce your emotional vulnerability and have more positive emotional experiences.

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