What's Dialectical Behavior Therapy? Developing Your Understanding
Sometimes, painful emotions and conflicts can take a lot out of a person. If you’ve been wondering what type of therapy can help with these emotions, you may have heard about dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. DBT can help people build valuable skills to handle challenging emotions and improve their relationships. Below, we’ll look at DBT, how it is used, and the benefits of this type of therapy.
What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
DBT tends to focus on four key elements:
- Mindfulness, which focuses on improving someone's ability to be present in the moment
- Distress tolerance, which is geared toward increasing tolerance for negative emotion, rather than trying to escape it
- Emotional control, which is a strategy used to manage and change emotions that are intense and create problems in a person's life
- Interpersonal effectiveness, or behavioral skills that allow someone to communicate with others in a way that's assertive while maintaining self-respect and strengthening relationships.
When Is DBT Used?
DBT was originally used to treat BPD. But, it can help treat those who experience depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), binge eating, generalized anxiety disorder, bulimia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and substance use. DBT is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but it is specially adapted for the needs of people with intense, often-uncontrollable emotions.
Rather than trying to change the emotions, DBT teaches strategies for coping with them in healthy ways. DBT skills are taught in telephone crisis coaching because the coping skills learned in DBT therapy can be applied immediately to prevent harmful behavior like self injury*.
One study on the benefits of comprehensive DBT therapy for patients with bulimia found that the participants had significantly decreased bulimia nervosa symptoms after learning emotional regulation skills. However, more research needs to be done on how suitable DBT therapy is for eating disorders.
DBT skills are thought to help people control their emotions, develop more tolerance of distress and negative emotion, remain present in the moment, improve communication, and interact with others better. Anyone can benefit from learning the skills taught in DBT therapy, but especially people who experience intense emotions.
If you are experiencing a crisis text HOME to 741741 to contact the Crisis Text Line
Why Does DBT Focus On Skill Development?
Rather than just addressing problems, DBT teaches skills because behaviors that are problematic can start to evolve as unhealthy coping mechanisms. While addressing problems can provide temporary relief, it's often not helpful in the long term. DBT therapists teach their clients healthy coping skills and mindfulness skills to help them notice and respond to intense emotions in a healthy way.
To provide effective treatment, DBT assumes that clients are trying as best as possible but that they need to learn behaviors in different contexts. The word “dialectical” means to combine opposites. DBT therapy can teach people how to accept their intense emotions without reacting to them in a maladaptive way. People with borderline personality disorder and other mental health conditions may engage in self injury and other harmful behaviors. DBT teaches skills to stop unwanted behaviors and replace them with positive coping skills.
Dialectical behaviour therapy focuses on helping people make positive changes in their life by regulating intense emotional reactions. DBT aims to teach these different skills, which may allow a person to navigate situations in everyday life or manage challenges that get too big. These skills, according to Linehan, can be a huge part of building a fulfilling life. Being fully aware of their emotions can help people with personality disorders manage intense emotions in day to day life.
How Does DBT Work?
DBT is mainly categorized as cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is a form of talk therapy that focuses on how cognitive distortions, or negative thought patterns, can impact behavior. Since it was originally used for those with BPD, we’ll explore how it works with those who have BPD.
People who have BPD can have extreme emotions, which can be difficult to manage. These can be intense, uncontrollable emotions that become a problem when someone with BPD is interacting with other people, including friends, romantic partners, and even their own family.
Individual therapy in a DBT program tends to be influenced by philosophy of dialectics, which often focuses on balancing behavioral opposites. A therapist might work with you to find different ways to balance different perspectives that are influencing you. This work may help you to avoid extremes in the way you think. In clinical psychology, DBT training may provide you with distress tolerance skills, coping skills, and thought reframing.
What To Expect From DBT
This type of therapy may consist of both group work and one-on-one sessions. The therapist may occasionally seem like a coach to the client. The goal of individual therapy sessions is to keep the person motivated, help them apply the learned skills in their life, and address any obstacles that might arise during treatment. Therapists may use a variety of methods including role-playing, behavioral experiments, and homework assignments. Doing any homework assignments the therapist assigns can help you get the most out of DBT therapy.
There may be one or more licensed mental health professionals involved in treatment. Some facilities offer a consultation team to provide comprehensive DBT treatment. The DBT consultation team may include a primary healthcare provider, behavioral tech, nurses, therapists, and other professionals. The following are some skills that you may work on during DBT.
During DBT sessions, a therapist may help a client become more mindful of any triggers that cause emotional distress or any situations that can cause a desire to lash out and an inability to accept change. Accepting change tends to be a significant part of this type of therapy.
When it comes to the skill of distress tolerance, the therapist may focus on helping the person try to tolerate negative emotions. Oftentimes, a person may flee negative situations or lash out, which tends to breed more negativity. With DBT, a therapist may help the client to tolerate their current emotions and handle distress more skillfully.
Emotion regulation skills consist of strategies that can be used to help a person become more emotionally balanced. Managing emotions can help prevent blowups, allowing them to harness control over their emotions.
Interpersonal effectiveness training aims to help a person become more assertive in their relationships. This component of DBT may help them to get better at communicating and have a stronger, healthier relationship not just with themselves, but also with other people.
This group aspect of DBT focuses mostly on learning how to practice these skills. The one-on-one aspect of training tends to focus on the why, but group work allows you to practice your skills. Other people have their own experiences, and they may know of something that can help you cope with challenging situations better. Also, group work can give you a better, more reliable support network. Usually, one trained therapist leads all of this work and they practice different skills and exercises with group participants.
The group component of DBT usually lasts about two hours, with the group meeting weekly for approximately six months, depending on the needs that people have. DBT can be conducted in different ways, depending on the participants and the therapist. Some people don't need skills groups, but others may find that they work better with others.
Group therapy can have many benefits, including social support and encouragement from the other group members. Practicing the skills learned in DBT with others can help increase self esteem and confidence. However, how suitable DBT group therapy is for people may depend on several factors. People with social anxiety or privacy concerns may feel uncomfortable in a group setting and prefer individual DBT therapy. The effectiveness of group sessions may depend on the participant’s willingness to participate.
Get Help With A Therapist Trained In DBT
If you’re interested in trying DBT, you can search for "DBT therapy near me" with an experience in this therapeutic modality. Alternatively, you might try DBT through online therapy, which research has shown to be just as effective as in-person therapy. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can speak with a licensed therapist without leaving home, which may be more comfortable than going to a therapist’s office if this is your first time trying therapy.
With BetterHelp, you can communicate with a DBT therapist via phone or video chat at a time that suits your schedule. Also, you can contact your therapist in between sessions via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are The Six Main Points Of DBT?
The six main points of dialectical behavior therapy (DBt) are acceptance and change, behavior, cognitive change, skill sets, collaboration, and support.
What Does DBT Do?
DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy developed by Marsha Linehan. It aims to teach skills to live in the moment, form coping mechanisms, regulate their emotions, and improve relationships. It was first developed as a way to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) but now is used to relieve symptoms of other mental health challenges, including binge eating disorder, bulimia, substance use disorder,* suicide attempts,** and more. Suicidal behavior and thoughts of self-harm should always be taken seriously.
*If you or a loved one is experiencing difficulty with substance use, reach out to the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357.
**If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
What Are DBT Techniques?
Techniques of DBT include practicing mindfulness, tolerating distress, controlling emotions, and managing interpersonal relationships with loved ones and colleagues.
What Are The Four Skills Learned In DBT?
The four skills emphasized in DBT are mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.
Can You Learn DBT On Your Own?
While DBT skills training is often most effective with the help of a therapist, some skills modules are meant to be practiced consistently by the individual on their own time.
Is DBT Good For Depression?
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), one of the most effective forms of therapy for individuals with depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). SInce DBT is a form of CBT, it may be an effective form of therapy for people with depression.
Can DBT Be Harmful?
DBT can be effective for individuals with a number of mental health concerns, including borderline personality disorder (BPD), depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, and substance use disorder. However, if you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger, don't use this site. These resources can provide you with immediate help.
What Are Examples Of DBT Skills?
Skills learned through DBT may include the ability to express emotions, be assertive, be mindful, and negotiate with others.
What Is a Dialectical Thinking?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “‘dialectical’ means combining opposite ideas. DBT focuses on helping people accept the reality of their lives and their behaviors, as well as helping them learn to change their lives, including their unhelpful behaviors.”
What Does Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Mean?
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was initially developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). It’s a cognitive behavioral treatment method that uses both individual therapy and groups for skills training.
It can be an effective treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders.
What Is The Difference Between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) And Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?
DBT falls under the umbrella of CBT methods, but it has a more specific approach. DBT is different from CBT in that it tends to focus on acceptance and change, rather than rational thought and finding solutions.
Therapy sessions are often designed with unique elements to help a person accurately explain how they are feeling. This may be especially helpful for individuals who experience difficulty with emotion regulation and impulsivity.
What Are The Main Components Of Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
There are four main ways a DBT therapist may help you develop DBT skills.
- Skills training groups
- Individual therapy
- Phone coaching
- Therapist consultation teams
What Does It Mean To Think Dialectically?
If you decide to look more into DBT and find a therapist who specializes in this therapy model, you will likely be introduced to a concept called “dialectical thinking.” Dialectical thinking tends to involve combining different perspectives to gain a deeper understanding of a situation or emotion. It often entails both acceptance and an emphasis on change.
Can A Person With BPD Really Love?
Yes, a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is often able to form emotional connections. They sometimes experience a fear of abandonment, and it can be difficult for them to maintain long-lasting relationships. Family therapy or couples therapy may help loved ones understand the disorder more and develop skills to communicate effectively.
Is DBT Effective For Depression?
Yes, DBT has been found to be helpful in helping people with symptoms of depression. DBT may help individuals learn new coping skills and habits, especially when other forms of treatment haven’t been helpful. Because there is often a support group involved, it can also help with feelings of loneliness that are sometimes associated with depression.
Is DBT Good For Trauma?
DBT may help manage negative emotions that result from trauma. If you’re experiencing difficulty processing traumatic events that occurred in your life, it may be best to find a therapist that creates a treatment plan tailored to your situation.
How Long Does DBT Treatment Last?
On average, a full course of DBT spans the course of approximately 6 months. If you decide to look into DBT treatment, you find a therapist and ask them what a typical DBT treatment plan looks like at their practice. Therapists treat different people differently according to their needs, and not everyone will have the same experience with DBT.
Is CBT Or DBT Better For Anxiety?
Both CBT and DBT can be effective treatment models for anxiety. The type of therapy that will work for you is specific to your individual needs. A good way to figure out what will work best for you is to find a therapist and discuss your specific concerns.
Does DBT Work For Anxiety?
Yes, DBT has been known to help treat symptoms of anxiety. Because of the focus on mindfulness and social interactions, it can be an effective method for those who are trying to gain a better understanding of their thought processes.
What Are Nine Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder?
While there are some symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it’s recommended that individuals who may have BPD find a therapist who can help provide a diagnosis. However, below are nine of the most common symptoms:
- Impulsive or irrational behavior
- Intense mood swings, including intense anger
- Extreme sensitivity
- Thoughts of self-harm*
- Viewing things as all good or all bad
- Trouble maintaining long-lasting relationships
- A distorted self of self
- A chronic feeling of emptiness
- Difficulty trusting others
*If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
What Are Target Behaviors In DBT?
Target behaviors are often used in each DBT session to create goals on what behavior should be worked on. They are separated into three categories: life-threatening behavior,** therapy-interfering behavior, and quality-of-life-interfering behavior.
**If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
What Disorders Does DBT Treat?
Although DBT was initially developed to treat borderline personality disorder, it has been proven to help with a variety of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therapists who specialize in DBT may also treat people with eating disorders, those who experience thoughts of self-harm,*** and people who experience substance use disorders.**** They may also use their model to facilitate family therapy.
****If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
*****If you or a loved one is experiencing difficulty with substance use, reach out to the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357.
Through support groups, phone coaching, and body language work, a DBT therapist may provide you with valuable skills to handle your specific emotional challenges.
Does DBT Really Work?
Clinical psychologists have established DBT as an effective therapy model. If you’re looking to find a therapist, a support group, and a better understanding of yourself, DBT could be an effective option for you.
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