What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapeutic approach, modified in the pattern of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), that is focused mainly on helping people with borderline personality disorder and other mental health conditions that concern the inability or difficulty to control strong emotions.
According to Marsha M. Linehan, an American psychology researcher and the developer of the DBT approach, DBT was designed to aid individuals in improving their capacity for emotional and cognitive self-regulation, by teaching them about the triggers that result in reactive states, and assisting them in determining which coping mechanisms to use in the flow of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to help prevent unwanted reactions.
DBT is a form of therapy utilised by medical professionals (performed by a DBT Therapist) to treat patients with a range of mental illnesses which may include:
- Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
- Binge eating disorders
- Mood disorders, and so on.
How Does Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Work?
In this form of talking therapy:
- The DBT therapy specialist (otherwise known as a DBT therapist) strives to build a relationship of trust and understanding with the patient.
- The therapist acknowledges the issues raised without judgment, and also encourages the patient to accept the current situation in which they are in.
- The therapist then addresses these psychological issues by presenting the negative effects those feelings, thoughts, or behaviour are having on the patient’s life.
- After which the therapist proposes better and more positive alternative methods of handling those feelings, thoughts, or behaviour.
- The patient is taught Dialectical Behaviour Therapy skills in order to better regulate their emotions and make wise decisions about whether and how to take action in various episodic situations, rather than reacting on impulse.
- Based on the patient’s situation and preference, the DBT therapist will prescribe the best method of having the behaviour therapy skill training sessions. It could be done in a group setting, in an individual setting (one-on-one), online (eg. phone coaching, in between regular sessions), or by creating a mix of these three methods.
- This way, the therapy session will be specifically tailored to the needs of the patient, and deliver the desired result of bringing about gradual positive change to the individual in treatment.
Why is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Important?
This research-based therapeutic solution has proven to be effective for treating and managing a wide range of mental health conditions. However, whether or not you have a mental illness or personality disorder, with DBT you will be able to improve your mental health and possess the ability to better tolerate distressing situations.
With Dialectical Behavour Therapy all your mental and psychological needs are catered for. Instead of ignoring or going around the problem, you’ll be guided on how to face it head-on, understand it, accept it, and overcome it through change.
With the help of a DBT psychotherapist you’ll learn to master:
- Acceptance – Identifying negative behaviours, and accepting them as part of who you are.
- Growth – learning skills, techniques, and methods to help you regulate your emotions better and deal with those negative emotions as they emerge.
- Change – Replacing the negative, with positive behaviours, and exercising control over your emotions by utilizing what you’ve learned in session.
Who Does Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Benefit?
If you often find yourself in situations where you have to ask the question “Is there something wrong with me?” or “Why do I feel so empty?”, please do not feel scared or isolated, you are not alone.
As mentioned earlier, dialectical behaviour therapy aids the treatment and management of a wide range of mental health conditions. They include:
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Extreme self-dislike and severe mood fluctuations may be experienced by people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). One of the most effective methods of treating BPD is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which replaces maladaptive characteristics with skills like emotion regulation, mindfulness, and distress tolerance.
Depression symptoms can be addressed and reduced using dialectical behavior therapy. It assists those who are depressed in recognizing negative traits, altering them, and introducing desirable behaviors including mindfulness, emotion control, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Dialectical behaviour therapy is also an effective way to approach people who have intense or excessive worry and fear. DBT teaches the skills required to manage these emotions.
People with mood swings ranging from depression to abnormally high energy, like those with anxiety disorders, require DBT. DBT improves emotional control and reduces mood symptoms.
Eating disorders can affect people of all ages. Consuming food or other substances can be a way to cope with overwhelming feelings; however, with DBT skills, these emotions can be easily regulated, avoiding abnormal eating habits.
How Will I Know if Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is For Me?
If your emotions, thoughts, or behaviours are interfering with your daily activities and your interpersonal relationships, it might be a sign that you need Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).
You may have looked up DBT on the internet or spoken with someone who has received DBT treatment. But when it comes to deciding whether DBT is what you need, there’s a checklist to fill out.
Here are a few things to consider before deciding whether DBT is right for you:
- Does your mood change quickly and is often accompanied by a lasting negative feeling?
- Do your emotions become out of control, causing you to impulsively abuse drugs or alcohol?
- Do you have anger management problems that cause you to occasionally lash out or explode at friends or family members in harsh ways?
- Do you often feel empty, hopeless, or numb, and can’t seem to move on from that feeling?
- Do your emotions, thoughts, or actions prevent you from achieving the goals or targets you set for yourself?
If your response to these questions is yes, then we strongly encourage you to contact a professional DBT therapist today.
How Long Does Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Last?
The typical duration of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is between six and twelve months (of once-per-week sessions, with each session between 45 – 60 minutes long).
However, because each person is different and because mental health issues are complicated, you might not be totally free of those emotions, symptoms, or troublesome behaviors after a year of DBT, rather you’ll learn to deal with them better. Don’t get discouraged because of the pace, “any progress is good progress” as long as you are intentional about that positive change you aim to achieve.
You must, of course, keep in mind that while DBT is not a cure for borderline personality disorder (BPD) or other mental health conditions, it has proven to be successful in lowering those symptoms and aiding in their management. Behavioural research on BPD has shown that more than 77% of patients no longer exhibit symptoms at an alarming rate, after a year of receiving DBT.