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What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?


Dialectical behavioral therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of talk therapy (psychotherapy) that is based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The only major difference is that Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is tailored to individuals struggling with intense emotional outbursts.

On the other hand, CBT is a form of psychotherapy that’s designed to help you understand how thoughts impact your emotions and behaviors. The term “dialectical” typically means combining differing ideas. As such, dialectical behavioral therapy focuses more on helping you accept the reality of your life and your behaviors. It can also help you learn to change the trajectory of your life, including changing unhelpful behaviors.  

DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan, a renowned American psychologist, in the 1970s.  

What is DBT Used to Treat? 

Dialectical behavioral therapy is most effective when used to treat individuals facing difficulties managing their emotions. It has proven effective in the treatment and management of a wide range of mental health problems including: 

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Self-harm 
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD) 
  • Substance use disorder (SUD) 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD
  • Anxiety  
  • Depression 
  • Eating disorders, especially bulimia, and binge eating disorder  

It is also worth noting that the reason why DBT is so effective in treating the above-mentioned mental health conditions is that each of these issues is thought to be somehow associated with deeper issues resulting from problematic or unhealthy efforts to control intense negative emotions.  

Instead of depending on efforts that only cause more problems, DBT helps you learn healthier ways to cope with your negative emotions.  

How Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Works  

The goal of a therapist using DBT is to strike a balance between acceptance (validation) of who you are and the challenges in your life and the benefits of change. Therefore, your therapist will guide you on how to embrace new skills to better manage your emotions or to improve emotion regulation.  

The structure of your dialectical behavioral therapy often varies from one therapist to another, but today we will be discussing three of the four types of sessions: 

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy pre-assessment 
  • Individual therapy 
  • Group skill training  

DBT Pre-Assessment  

During this stage, your therapist will assess your condition before recommending the appropriate DBT plan for you. They will determine whether DBT is the most suitable form of treatment for your case by asking questions and clarifying how dialectical behavioral therapy works.  

If your therapist believes that DBT is the right path for you, they will recommend that you commit to treatment.  

Individual DBT Therapy  

These are weekly sessions with your therapist. Every session will last 40 to 60 minutes. Individual DB therapy aims to achieve the following goals: 

  • To limit habits that might get in the way of productive therapy  
  • To keep you safe by limiting self-harming and suicidal behaviors, if applicable  
  • To help you learn new coping mechanisms and skills to replace your old unhelpful behaviors  
  • To help you reach your personal goals and improve the overall quality of your life by addressing issues that might be blocking your progress. 

Your therapist might encourage you to keep a diary to help keep track of your emotions and actions in a bid to look for behavior patterns. Bringing this diary to each session will help your therapist decide what to work on in that specific session.  

Group Skill Training Sessions  

Group skill training sessions are group sessions where you and your peers are taught a wide range of skills. However, you should not mistake these sessions for group therapy sessions since the latter is designed to create a platform where you can share your problems with others.  

DBT skill coaching sessions aim to help develop and improve your capabilities in day-to-day life. In these sessions, you will learn four key skills:  

  • Mindfulness  
  • Distress Tolerance  
  • Interpersonal effectiveness  
  • Emotional regulation  

How To Get Started With DBT  

The best way to find out whether DBT is the right course of action for you is to talk to a professional trained in this therapy method. At My Psychiatrist, we have a team of board-certified psychiatrists and mental health providers trained in DBT. If you or your loved one is suffering from one of the mental health conditions that we have listed at the beginning of this article, it is important that you talk to a qualified mental health professional.  

Book an appointment or Call (877) 548-8089 to get the help you need today. My Psychiatrist offers expert clinical care via telemedicine and at our Hollywood, Oakland Park, South Miami and Boca Raton facilities in Florida.