Do you feel like you can’t get ahead? Like life is just beating you down, or that challenges are overwhelming you to the point of chronic, debilitating anxiety, depression, PTSD, disordered eating, insomnia, or other mental health concerns? Do you feel like your emotions run your life, and you’re exhausted by the ups and downs? If these experiences are familiar to you, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, could be the solution you’re looking for.
If you’re unfamiliar with this type of treatment, it’s important to know that DBT is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). DBT was originally founded by suicide researcher Marsha Linehan in the late 1970s for the treatment of borderline personality disorder.
Since that time DBT has been empirically validated for a wide variety of other issues such as suicidal ideation, PTSD, self-harm, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. Today DBT is used across a number of populations and for a myriad of mental health conditions. It can be utilized in both a private (individual or 1:1) therapy session, or (more preferably) in group therapy.
DBT has been shown to significantly reduce the frequency rate and length of hospitalizations for individuals with chronic mental health symptoms, and is used with both adults and adolescents.
DBT has four specific modules:
- Mindfulness: learning to be fully aware and present in the moment.
- Distress Tolerance: discovering how to tolerate emotional pain in difficult situations, rather than fight it.
- Interpersonal Effectiveness: learning how to ask for what you want and establish boundaries while maintaining self-respect and healthy relationships with others.
- Emotion Regulation: discovering how to decrease susceptibility to painful emotions and purposefully change emotions that don’t serve you.
If you’re wondering if DBT could be the right treatment for you, here are some important things to consider. Work through these statements honestly, asking yourself the hard questions in order to determine the severity of your experience.
- Do you feel like you’re riding a never-ending roller coaster? It’s common for individuals dealing with ongoing emotional distress to seek out DBT. For instance, if you feel you’re constantly fighting with others, feeling overwhelmed, crying or escalating with an inability to control your emotions. DBT uses specific skills to manage emotional regulation in order to help you feel less vulnerable to your emotions, better handle interpersonal tension and conflict, and learn greater “distress tolerance” when dealing with situational challenges and emotional hurdles.
- Are your relationships riddled with conflict? Do you feel like it’s hard to connect with others, notice you’re always in conflict, feel ongoing tension with people you care about at work and at home, find yourself unsatisfied in your relationships, or struggle to make new friends? It’s common for emotionally volatile individuals to struggle with interpersonal issues. DBT can help! DBT uses interpersonal effectiveness skills training to teach you how to have stronger, healthier, more fulfilling relationships with others so you can feel good about yourself, set boundaries, and learn both self-respect and respect for others.
- Are you turning to destructive coping skills when emotions are heightened? For many individuals who benefit from DBT, they find that prior to enrolling in therapy they struggled with unhealthy coping mechanisms when emotions were high, such as self-harm, disordered eating, suicidal ideation, alcohol or drug use. If this is familiar to you, remember that you deserve to feel secure and confident and like life is worth living. DBT can help you manage impulsive urges to choose unhealthy coping strategies, and instead provide you with more long-term, positive and effective solutions that bring greater wellbeing to your life.
- Does it seem like traditional talk therapy or psychotherapy doesn’t work for you? If you’ve tried therapy in the past, maybe even a few therapists, or medication use, or a combination of both and it seems like nothing is working, DBT might be the answer. With decades of research supporting the effectiveness of DBT treatment for symptoms that are usually treatment-resistant (such as depression, anxiety or PTSD), this form of therapy has a unique ability to teach you how to both accept your challenges and identify your emotions, but still create space in which you can manifest positive changes, cope, and thrive.
If any of these questions and experiences resonate with you, you’re ready to try DBT!