What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?
Folks who struggle with tolerating intense emotion and who find themselves acting out impulsively in ways that harm their wellbeing or personal relationships may benefit from working with a therapist who practices Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The mindfulness skills and interpersonal growth that can result from this kind of therapy can be a lifesaver for patients who don’t know where to begin their healing journey.
What is DBT?
You may have heard of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), a type of treatment that helps folks learn to recognize their own destructive thought patterns that contribute to unwanted behavior. Throughout the treatment process, clients learn to challenge these negative thought patterns and replace them with more constructive and realistic thoughts. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a specialized form of CBT that was developed specifically to treat clients struggling with issues like borderline personality disorder (BPD), substance use disorder, and bipolar disorder. This therapy has four goals:
- Emotional regulation
- Healthy coping mechanisms
- Improved interpersonal relationships
- Living in the moment
DBT utilizes a variety of methods to achieve its goals.
Phone coaching empowers clients to learn to live in the moment through phone calls with their therapist between sessions. Talking to the client in the heat of the moment allows the therapist to directly access negative or destructive thoughts that are encouraging unwanted behavior.
Individual therapy is a powerful tool for achieving treatment goals. During sessions, therapists may use the time to explore client thought patterns and perform exercises related to mindfulness and distress tolerance.
Group therapy is critical to improving interpersonal relationships for patients as it gives therapists a chance to provide immediate feedback on the ways patients relate to others. Working in a group setting also creates opportunities to practice and learn new skills.
Therapists may teach their clients mindfulness skills, which can help patients change their focus during times of intense stress or anger. Exercises that develop mindfulness encourage a client to focus on sensations in their body or the room around them.
Does It Work?
DBT has been proven to be extraordinarily effective in treating certain conditions. Most research has focused on its efficacy with BPD, where 75 percent of patients no longer met the requirements for BPD after one year of treatment under this modality. Studies have also shown promising results for reducing suicidality and assisting in recovery from substance use disorder.
This kind of therapy is effective because as therapists ask the patient to change, they are simultaneously validating the worth of the person and teaching them real-life skills to help them cope with the potential distress of changing.
Where to Find Treatment
Most recovery centers including The Sands Treatment Center offer Dialectical Behavior Therapy when it is appropriate to a patient’s unique needs. Patients who see themselves benefiting from this kind of treatment can seek out treatment centers or therapists who have the specialization needed to practice this modality. Ultimately, learning skills to increase distress tolerance and improve personal relationships can be a gateway to recovery for patients struggling to thrive.