What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (or otherwise known as DBT), is a type of therapy that is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It was initially developed for people with personality disorders, such as bi-polar disorder or borderline personality disorder, but is now widely used in the field of psychology to help anyone who might experience emotions very intensely. As its name suggests, DBT is influenced by balancing opposites. DBT focuses on helping people accept the reality of their behaviors as well as helping them learn to change the behaviors that are harmful/not working for them. During DBT, the therapist works to find ways to hold two opposite perspectives at once to find a balance between acceptance and change.

There are four main parts to Dialectical Behavior Therapy:

  1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a skill that can be learned. It is the ability to be fully present and aware of where we are doing. Mindfulness entails maintaining a moment- by-moment nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, somatic sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness is an important first step in DBT because it helps regulate emotions and getting through crisis or highly emotional conflicts. To practice mindfulness, consider bringing your attention back to the present moment by using all 5 senses.
  2. Distress Tolerance: Distress tolerance skills refer to a type of intervention where people learn to manage distress in a healthy way. Another word that might be used for distress tolerance is coping skills. Many times, people are unable to change a situation, so distress tolerance helps people manage their emotions towards a situation. Some common distress tolerance DBT skills include: deep breathing, making a pros/cons list, thinking about long term goals and actions.
  3. Emotion Regulation: Emotional regulation is the ability to exert control over an emotional state. It may involve behaviors such as rethinking/reframing a challenging situation to reduce negative emotions or focusing on reasons to be calm and happy. Practicing positive self-talk is a commonly used DBT skill to help with emotion regulation.
  4. Interpersonal effectiveness: Interpersonal effectiveness skills are intended to help people become more aware of how their behavior affects relationships, and then make positive changes towards improving relationships around them. The aim is to strengthen current relationships, build healthy relationships, and end those relationships that are unhealthy. Learning about, understanding and setting boundaries is a part of DBT.

In general, DBT consists of both individual therapy and DBT groups.  DBT is especially effective for people who have difficulty managing and regulating emotions. DBT has shown to be effective for treating a wide range of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance use, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorders. DBT can also help with general quality of life and skills acquisition. Receiving DBT can improve overall mental health. If interested in DBT, please reach out to Mountain Vista Psychology!

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