What is DBT?
WHAT IS DBT?
Short for Dialectical Behavior Therapy, DBT is a modified type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others. DBT was originally intended to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), but it has been adapted to treat other mental health conditions. It can help people who have difficulty with emotional regulation or are exhibiting self-destructive behaviors (such as eating disorders and substance use disorders). This type of therapy is also sometimes used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In DBT, the patient and therapist work to resolve the apparent contradiction between self-acceptance and change to bring about positive changes in the individual in treatment. Part of this process involves offering validation, which helps people become more likely to cooperate and less likely to experience distress at the idea of change.
In practice, the therapist validates that an individual's actions "make sense" within the context of their personal experiences without necessarily agreeing that the actions are the best approach to solving a problem.
Each therapeutic setting has its own structure and goals, but the characteristics of DBT can be found in group skills training, individual psychotherapy, and phone coaching.
Acceptance and change: You’ll learn strategies to accept and tolerate your life circumstances, emotions, and yourself. You will also develop skills that can help you make positive changes in your behaviors and interactions with others.
Behavioral: You'll learn to analyze problems or destructive behavior patterns and replace them with more healthy and effective ones.
Cognitive: You'll focus on changing thoughts and beliefs that are not effective or helpful.
Collaboration: You'll learn to communicate effectively and work together as a team (therapist, group therapist, psychiatrist).
Skill sets: You’ll learn new skills to enhance your capabilities.
Support: You'll be encouraged to recognize your positive strengths and attributes and develop and use them.
One important benefit of DBT is the development of mindfulness skills. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present or "live in the moment." This helps you pay attention to what is happening inside you (your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses) as well as using your senses to tune in to what's happening around you (what you see, hear, smell, and touch) in nonjudgmental ways. Mindfulness skills help you slow down and focus on using healthy coping skills when you are in the midst of emotional pain. The strategy can also help you stay calm and avoid engaging in automatic negative thought patterns and impulsive behavior.
Distress tolerance skills help you accept yourself and your current situation. DBT teaches several techniques for handling a crisis, including:
Improving the moment
Thinking of the pros and cons of not tolerating distress
Distress tolerance techniques help prepare you for intense emotions and empower you to cope with them with a more positive long-term outlook.
Interpersonal effectiveness helps you to become more assertive in a relationship (for example, expressing your needs and be able to say "no") while still keeping a relationship positive and healthy. You will learn to listen and communicate more effectively, deal with challenging people, and respect yourself and others.
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