What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a modified version of another well-known type of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The primary goal of DBT is to help individuals struggling with certain behaviors and mental health conditions to better cope with stress, regulate their emotions, stay present in every moment, and consequently improve the health of their relationships with others. 

While DBT was initially developed to treat a specific condition - Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) - it has since been modified to treat other conditions such as self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, emotional dysregulation, and more. DBT is even used at times for PTSD. 

DBT Treatment Settings

DBT is used in a variety of settings to help treat many types of conditions. Some of these include: 

Group Therapy: In this setting, members are taught DBT skills with a group of their peers and are able to practice DBT application in a safe, controlled environment led by a licensed mental health professional.

Individual Therapy: For one-on-one therapy, DBT can be leveraged by a trained mental health specialist to identify the patients destructive behaviors in order to replace them with healthy behavioral skills. 

DBT Strategies & Techniques

DBT follows the same key principles and techniques (for the most part), across various mental health conditions and behavioral treatment protocols. Some of these include: 

  1. Distress Tolerance
  • DBT uses a few specific techniques to help patients manage their reactions to crisis in order to empower them to cope with intense emotions in a better way, such as self-soothing, distraction, pro/con analysis 
  1. Mindfulness
  • One of the single most beneficial skills for every patient is the learned ability to focus on the present. Living in the moment helps those battling intense emotions, overwhelm, and anxiety to focus on what is happening in their own body in order to slow down, breathe, and reactivate better coping skills rather than engaging in negative behaviors and thought patterns. 
  1. Emotional Regulation
  • Developing better skills in order to regulate and navigate intense emotions is a critical part of DBT. Emotional regulation specifically teaches patients how to identify, label, and adjust their emotions in the midst of turmoil or distress. 
  1. Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • The application of DBT skills through interpersonal effectiveness implies the ability to openly express needs, boundaries, and emotions in your relationships with others in a constructive way. DBT can help you learn to communicate effectively, navigate challenging relationships, and respect yourself and the individuality of other people in a healthy way. 

DBT Stages of Treatment

There are four main stages of treatment for Dialectical Behavior Therapy: 

  • Stage 1: At the early stages of treatment, therapists will identify and target the most concerning or self-destructive behavior types for the patient (such as suicidal ideations, self-harm, or harm to others).
  • Stage 2: The second stage of DBT begins to address quality of life issues such as emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. 
  • Stage 3: In this stage of DBT the therapist will focus on building healthy relationships and addressing self-esteem problems. 
  • Stage 4: In the final stage of DBT, treatment targets broader end goals such as helping patients discover greater happiness and fulfillment in their lives, and the establishment and pursuit of goals and dreams.

Getting Started with DBT

If you’re wondering if DBT is right for you, the best thing you can do is to contact a mental health professional trained in DBT so they can assess your symptoms, history, and goals to decide if DBT is the right treatment protocol for you. 

One of the easiest and best ways to begin the DBT treatment process is to join an online therapy group, which offers easy, affordable weekly access from the comfort of your own home to all of the benefits DBT has to offer. 

Here at Grouport, we offer group therapy that is conducted online through Zoom calls from the safety of your home. Online DBT group therapy is a viable option for treatment of BPD and other mental health disorders. Learn more about our DBT therapy groups HERE.

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