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Discover DBT and What It Can Do for You

DBT is a therapy that’s really helping people relearn life skills after trauma.

Key Takeaways:

  • DBT is a relatively new psychotherapy with an excellent success rate
  • It helps people with intense emotions deal with their feelings and live happy lives
  • It works so well because of how it’s structured and operates 

DBT is short for dialectical behavior therapy – a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that treats mental health issues. Dr. Marsha Linehan developed the DBT technique to treat people with borderline personality disorders and violent symptoms, but researchers soon found it to be highly successful with other mental illnesses, such as PTSD, chronic anxiety and depression, self-harming behavior, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation.

People experiencing extreme emotions who cannot cope in a healthy manner are the best candidates for DBT. It uses four fundamental principles that directly address extreme emotions and provides methods of dealing with them. Read on to learn more about DBT, how it works, and why it’s such an effective therapy.

The Basics of DBT

Living through severe trauma can cause wounds in a person’s consciousness. They are no longer the person they would’ve been, and most aren’t even aware they live with psychological scars that affect their behavior. These people are puzzled by their feelings and reactions and feel incapable of doing anything to change them. 

Personality disorders are powerful. They develop to help cope with traumatic memories and heal scarred reactions, but they are even more problematic. That’s where therapy is valuable, and DBT specifically deals with intense and dangerous emotions.

The Methodology of DBT

DBT skills are things most people learn growing up in a healthy household, but trauma can change a person’s aspect and life experiences. Skill deficits are a breeding ground for unhealthy mental activity. There are no healthy coping mechanisms to fall back on. 

DBT reteaches crucial life lessons that produce self-acceptance. Other therapies teach ways to cope with these issues, but DBT expressly addresses acute trauma and damaging coping structures. There are four modules of skills to work through:

1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness indicates being aware of where you are and what is happening to you. In DBT, it also means you’re not defaulting to harmful coping strategies when the situation is stressful. It emphasizes being fully present and not reflecting on what happened in the past or might happen next.

2. Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance implies that you know you don’t have to have an over-the-top reaction every time something stressful happens. It also means realizing that stressful things happen daily, and you can live with them easily by utilizing your coping skills.

3. Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness speaks to how you deal with others. It’s about learning how to communicate with others and convey what you need without extreme emotions, even when you feel wronged. Interpersonal effectiveness also pertains to setting boundaries and knowing when to say no.

4. Emotion Regulation

Therapists teach patients to regulate their emotions in DBT. It includes learning to understand the emotions you’re having and being able to control them. 

DBT has a better track record than other psychological therapies because it is highly organized. The gravity of the patient’s distress dictates the treatment approach. Psychological health professionals plan a treatment program based on where the patient fits in the stages of treatment.

DBT Stages of Treatment

DBT is a rational, multistage approach to mental issues. Patients are introduced to the program where their situation will best fit. There is no timeline. Patients move through each stage at their own pace. The first stage deals with the most pertinent issues. The following stages address quality of life skills, self-esteem, and relationship issues.

Stage 1

Stage 1 is when the therapist works with the patient to control harmful behavior. The most self-destructive behavior, such as suicide attempts or self-harm, are tackled first. The patient begins learning life-improving skills at this first level.

Stage 2

Higher-level quality-of-life skills such as emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness are addressed in this stage. Homework starts, and patients are starting to be held accountable for their reactions and thoughts. They learn to replace harmful reactions with positive responses by seeing the difference that choice makes. 

Stage 3

The focus of therapy moves to improve relationships and self-esteem. It’s about learning to trust yourself and living your life without fear of losing it when stress pops up. When patients reach stage 3, they focus more on reaching individual goals. 

Stage 4 

This stage is about promoting more joy and more profound connections through a spiritual existence. The goal is to help the patient find enrichment in life. 

One key factor to keep in mind is that the stages of DBT need to be more chronological. They are closer to circular because some issues come up repeatedly and must be worked through each time, no matter what stage the patient is working in. 

Related Risks and Side Effects

There are minuscule side effects to DBT. Most notably, it requires a considerable time commitment, during which patients feel differing emotions and gain insights. Side effects don’t last long in most cases, but they can be recurring. These include:

  • Agitation
  • Anticipatory anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Flashbacks
  • Overpowering emotions

Psychotherapists help patients cope with any side effects throughout therapy. Most are byproducts of what is discovered during therapy and diminish as the primary issues are settled.

DBT therapy isn’t just a treatment for borderline personality disorder any longer. Its advantages are used to treat many psychological ailments and effectively stop self-harming behaviors and suicidal ideation. It’s a safe and effective method for people with mental health issues to develop a life worth living.

DBT Helps People Create a Rich Life

Life’s traumas aren’t easy. DBT is a valuable tool that brings powerful results. The Counseling Center Group offers in-depth therapies for anyone who doesn’t feel as connected to life as they’d like. From eating and sleep disorders to addictions, anxiety, and relationship problems, there is a modality of therapy that can help you feel better in both group and individual sessions. Give us a call today to see how we can help you. 


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