What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, is a behavioral method of counseling that aims to increase emotional awareness in clients and reduce reactivity and impulsivity. There are four core modules of DBT which are: Core Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness, each of which maintains their own unique skill set that clients will cultivate and use during moments of emotional dysregulation, disassociation, and interpersonal conflict. There are several assumptions of DBT that include the beliefs that: “We are doing the best we can and we can do better,” as well as, “While we may not have created all of our problems, we are responsible for solving them.
Dr. Marsha Linehan developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in the 1970s while conducting research on the topic of suicide. Dr. Linehan noticed that individuals who struggled with chronic depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm were not typically improving after receiving treatment with other conventional therapy tactics of the era. She came to find that these individuals often had long histories of multiple hospitalizations, difficulty maintaining stability, and that their interpersonal lives were constantly and severely impacted by ongoing periods of heightened emotional reactivity.
Dr. Linehan interviewed many other therapists while conducting her research, and she noticed that the clients struggling the most often grew up in toxic environments where healthy attachments could not be formed. In promoting a new type of therapy that acknowledged aspects of both behavioral change and acceptance, she began the process of transforming the therapist-client relationship from adversarial to collaborative. Dr. Linehan continues to practice Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to this day and is the founder of Behavioral Tech, which serves to certify counselors and therapists in DBT therapy.
DBT is proven to be extremely effective in helping individuals who struggle with self-harm, including eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, attachment issues, mood or personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress. Because the modality addresses deficits in emotional skills and requires a fair degree of commitment from the client, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy tends to provide long-term, practical, and sustainable relief to those suffering from extreme emotional distress.
How Does Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Work?
When DBT was being developed, Dr. Linehan intended for the therapy to be intensive and highly involved. While some therapists have integrated certain elements of DBT into their practice, the strictly regimented form of DBT created by Linehan, what we refer to as “Adherent DBT,” requires weekly individual and group sessions, skills-building “homework”, intermittent coaching sessions. Due to the intricate nature of this approach, many DBT therapists will work as part of a team in order to provide thorough and steady treatment.
The core modules of DBT: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness, are discussed in both group and individual environments, and each therapy session is devoted to learning about and practicing a skill. Clients are then expected to write diary cards or complete skills exercises outside of the therapeutic setting. In addition, during the intermittent coaching periods, clients will have brief discussions with their therapist or counselor about when skills were implemented effectively and where improvements could be made. Over time, clients will be encouraged to develop the attitude that they are doing the best they can and that they always can do better.
At New Beginnings Psych, we practice “DBT informed therapy,” and we are confident in the advantages that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has to offer. For clients who did not grow up feeling safe or were not encouraged to develop a sense of self, confusion permeates so many aspects of their lives. When clients have trouble fully comprehending what they are thinking or feeling, stressful situations cause them to react in an emotionally heightened way, that may appear “over-reactive.” DBT helps to facilitate increased cognitive and emotional awareness, as well as a reconstruction of the self so that the reactivity can be reduced and eventually dissipated altogether.
Our therapists will work to thoroughly explain each DBT module and skill set so that the client can be fully aware of what is expected of them throughout the course of treatment. Each client will be given an opportunity to see how skill sets can become applicable and begin to implement them in day-to-day life. Over time, attention-seeking behaviors will be reduced as individual needs and wants are expressed directly.
The “homework” element of DBT therapy helps clients to reinforce the skills they learn during sessions and give their brains a chance to adapt to this new way of thinking. By incorporating this degree of reflection into the therapeutic process, clients will be given the chance to walk away from DBT treatment with tangible skills and a solid understanding of when and where to use them.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can help individuals to function and communicate better, which will, in turn, improve the quality of their lives. Moreover, as the element of reconstruction of self is addressed, clients will be given the chance to resolve their trauma so that emotional reactions to those thoughts and memories are not so distressing. By practicing the skills from various modules, clients are better prepared to offer compassion to both themselves and the world around them.
Why DBT At New Beginnings Psych?
Our team of counselors and therapists believes that while DBT therapy may require a high degree of engagement and input from each client, an all-encompassing approach is more likely to yield successful results.
In addition to traditional Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, we incorporate object-relations and attachment theories to help clients identify and understand how their beliefs about the world were formed. In addition, for clients who exhibit borderline personality traits, we use schema therapy to help them map out their experiences and gain a new perspective in order to shift their worldview. These therapeutic methods combined are meant to reinforce the skill sets promoted by DBT.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Equips You With The Skill Set Needed To Face Life’s Challenges
If you struggle with chronic depression, ideas of self-harm, a mood or personality disorder, or PTSD, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy at New Beginnings Psych can give you the tools you need to reduce distress and regulate your emotions. For more information about how we can help or to schedule your first appointment, contact us.