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What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

 » Bill Reichle Therapy/Counseling

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that was originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, it has since been adapted to help people with a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

In this guide, we will explore what DBT is, its benefits, and the skills it teaches to help individuals manage their emotions and improve their overall well-being.

 

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan. It is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that combines elements of mindfulness, acceptance, and change strategies to help individuals regulate their emotions and improve their relationships.

DBT is based on the theory that some people are more emotionally sensitive and have a harder time managing their emotions. This can lead to impulsive behaviors, difficulty in relationships, and a sense of emptiness or dissatisfaction with life.

The goal of DBT is to help individuals learn skills to manage their emotions, improve their relationships, and ultimately create a life worth living.

The Four Modules of DBT

DBT is typically divided into four modules, each focusing on a different set of skills:

  1. Mindfulness: This module teaches individuals to be present in the moment and to observe their thoughts and emotions without judgment.
  2. Distress Tolerance: This module focuses on coping skills to help individuals tolerate and survive distressing situations without making things worse.
  3. Emotion Regulation: This module teaches individuals how to identify and regulate their emotions in a healthy way.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: This module focuses on improving communication and relationships with others.

 

Benefits of DBT

DBT has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions, including borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Here are some of the benefits of DBT:

Improved Emotional Regulation

One of the main goals of DBT is to help individuals learn how to regulate their emotions in a healthy way. This can be especially beneficial for those who struggle with intense emotions or have difficulty managing their emotions.

Through DBT, individuals learn skills such as mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation, which can help them better understand and manage their emotions.

Better Relationships

DBT also focuses on improving relationships with others. This can be especially helpful for individuals with borderline personality disorder, who often struggle with maintaining stable and healthy relationships.

Through the interpersonal effectiveness module, individuals learn skills such as assertiveness, setting boundaries, and effective communication, which can help them build and maintain healthy relationships.

Increased Self-Awareness

DBT also emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and self-reflection. Through mindfulness practices, individuals learn to observe their thoughts and emotions without judgment, which can help them gain a better understanding of themselves.

This increased self-awareness can lead to improved decision-making, better communication, and a greater sense of self-acceptance.

 

DBT Skills

DBT teaches a variety of skills to help individuals manage their emotions and improve their relationships. Here are some of the key skills taught in DBT:

Mindfulness Skills

Mindfulness is a key component of DBT. It involves being present in the moment and observing thoughts and emotions without judgment. Some mindfulness skills taught in DBT include:

  • Mindful breathing: Focusing on the breath to bring attention to the present moment.
  • Observing thoughts and emotions: Noticing thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them.
  • Non-judgmental stance: Accepting thoughts and emotions without labeling them as good or bad.

Distress Tolerance Skills

Distress tolerance skills are designed to help individuals cope with difficult emotions and situations. Some distress tolerance skills taught in DBT include:

  • Self-soothing: Engaging in activities that bring comfort and calmness.
  • Distracting: Finding activities to take the mind off of distressing thoughts or emotions.
  • Radical acceptance: Accepting reality as it is, even if it is difficult or painful.

Emotion Regulation Skills

Emotion regulation skills are aimed at helping individuals identify and manage their emotions in a healthy way. Some emotion regulation skills taught in DBT include:

  • Identifying emotions: Learning to recognize and label different emotions.
  • Opposite action: Acting opposite to an emotion to change its intensity.
  • Problem-solving: Finding solutions to problems that are causing distress.

Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

Interpersonal effectiveness skills focus on improving communication and relationships with others. Some interpersonal effectiveness skills taught in DBT include:

  • DEAR MAN: A communication strategy for asking for what you want or saying no.
  • GIVE: A strategy for maintaining relationships by being gentle, interested, validating, and easy mannered.
  • FAST: A strategy for maintaining self-respect in relationships by being fair, apologizing, sticking to values, and being truthful.

 

How to Get Started with DBT

If you are interested in trying DBT, here are some steps you can take to get started:

Find a DBT Therapist

The first step in starting DBT is to find a therapist who is trained in DBT. You can search for therapists in your area who specialize in DBT or ask your current therapist if they are familiar with DBT. Call Bill Reichle today if you are looking to build skills related to DBT.

Join a DBT Group

DBT is often taught in a group setting, which can provide additional support and accountability. You can search for DBT groups in your area or ask your therapist if they offer group sessions.

Practice DBT Skills on Your Own

In addition to therapy and group sessions, you can also practice DBT skills on your own. There are many resources available, such as workbooks and online courses, that can help you learn and practice DBT skills.

 

Conclusion

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a powerful tool for managing emotions, improving relationships, and creating a life worth living. By understanding what DBT is, its benefits, and the skills it teaches, individuals can take steps towards improving their mental health and overall well-being. If you are struggling with intense emotions or difficulty managing relationships, DBT may be a helpful approach for you.

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Bill Reichle Owner, Mental Health Therapist
Bill is the owner of Avanti Consulting LLC. Bill consults and works with families, children, and adults.