Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, was initially developed to treat borderline personality disorder but has since been found to be effective in treating several conditions, including substance use disorders, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal behavior.
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DBT is essentially a package that uses selected cognitive and behavioral therapeutic techniques. DBT was developed specifically to meet the challenges of borderline personality disorder. The psychologist who developed DBT, Marsha Linehan, found that borderline personality disorder made patients especially sensitive to criticism and emotional distress. As a result, they felt alienated by established cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which emphasizes changing thoughts and behaviors. Patients who felt criticized or invalidated were more likely to drop out of treatment.
What distinguishes DBT from CBT is that DBT emphasizes acceptance of challenging emotions as part of the process and helps clients better tolerate that emotional distress. Whereas a therapist using CBT might directly challenge a client’s feelings resulting from a cognitive distortion, a DBT therapist might be willing to validate those feelings and focus on productive ways to handle them.
Standard DBT treatment consists of one hour of individual therapy per week and one and a half to two hours of group skills training per week. DBT therapists also consult on how to provide the best treatment.
People sensitive to strong emotions are often not taught how to manage them. Therapists need to teach clients how to manage strong emotions. DBT focuses on the assumption that biology influences how we experience emotions.
Mindfulness is another vital skill taught in DBT. It improves distress tolerance. Rather than trying to avoid or suppress unpleasant emotions, you learn to accept them. Second, mindfulness keeps you focused on what’s happening.
Finally, DBT group work focuses on interpersonal effectiveness. People who struggle with borderline personality disorder often misinterpret the motivations of others and react inappropriately. Therefore, practicing how to interact with others in the face of strong emotions is a valuable skill for anyone with borderline personality disorder. However, interpersonal effectiveness is a vital skill for everyone. Better interpersonal skills strengthen relationships and reduce friction. Practicing these skills in the safe environment of group therapy is a great way to improve.
Dialectical behavior therapy is effective in helping people recover from addiction. Dialectical behavior therapy can help you:
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