Did you know that there is a specific kind of talking therapy that helps people with difficulty managing emotions to identify and change negative thinking patterns and make positive behavioral changes?
Yes, you heard it right – it’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.
What is DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)?
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is an adapted form of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy developed in the late 1980s by an American psychologist, Dr. Marsha M. Linehan.
The goal of this therapy is to help to teach people how to live in the present, and to develop healthy ways to deal with stress, regulate their emotions and improve their relationships with others.
The term “dialectical” in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is based on the concept of bringing together two opposites in therapy, that is, aiming for both ‘acceptance’ and ‘change.’
Learning to Accept yourself as you are and also to change your behavior might feel contradictory. But, DBT teaches you skills to meld these opposites together.
What conditions does Dialectical Behavioral Therapy treat?
DBT focuses on the patients that belong to the high-risk, tough-to-treat categories. These patients may often have multiple diagnoses.
The therapy was initially formulated to treat people showing suicidal behavior and Borderline Personality Disorder.
But it’s now been adapted for other mental health issues that threaten a person’s relationships, safety, and emotional well-being.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a condition that leads to acute emotional distress such as intense bursts of anger, rapid mood swings, and extreme sensitivity to rejection.
People with BPD find it very difficult to regulate emotions. As a result, impulsive behavior, including self-injury, substance abuse, eating difficulties, and repeated life crises (e.g, legal troubles), and homelessness, are common among them.
Evidence-based research shows that patients who undergo Dialectical Behavioral Therapy see many major improvements such as controlled emotions (less anger), improved social functioning, less frequent and less severe suicidal behavior, and shorter hospitalizations.
How does Dialectical Behavioral Therapy work?
DBT focuses mainly on three therapeutic settings, and each setting has its structure and goal. This includes:
- Group settings – Here, patients are taught behavioral skills by assigned practices to try out at home in between sessions. Skills groups meet once a week for two hours. During the skills group sessions, you’ll learn about and practice individual skills, talking through scenarios with the other members in your group. Group skills training is considered one of the key components of DBT.
- Individual therapy – This is done with the help of a trained professional following the principles and structured format of DBT. In this weekly one-on-one therapy session, your therapist helps you integrate the skills you learn in skills training to make you capable enough to adapt to your specific personal life challenges.
- Phone coaching – On an as-needed basis, following guidelines and limits agreed with the therapist, the patient can call the therapist between sessions to receive behavioral skills coaching on coping with a challenging situation they are currently going through. Although this is not an emergency therapy session, this brief coaching intervention can be very helpful when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or just need a little bit of extra support.
Before you begin DBT your therapist will take you through a pre-treatment phase of 4-5 sessions.
This is done to help you understand how suitable DBT is for you and to introduce the overall DBT model.
Then it’s up to you to decide if this is the right therapy for you.
The full stretch of DBT may take from 6-12 months in total to enable you to fully learn and apply the many emotional coping skills and strategies.
You will learn to analyze your problems that include destructive behavior patterns and, in the end, replace them with more healthy ones.
You will be encouraged able to see the changes in your thoughts, beliefs, actions, and positive strengths and accept them.
If you think that you or a loved one might benefit from Dialectical Behavioral Treatment, it’s important to talk with a mental health care professional.
At Maudsley’s Health, we offer both Individual and Group Therapy using DBT and skills training programs.
We deliver comprehensive high-quality assessments, using the most appropriate tools and effective, evidence-based interventions to achieve the best possible outcomes for people with borderline personality disorders.
This article is a part of a series of posts on Dialectical Behavior Therapy and will be covering related topics in upcoming articles.