An introduction to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

therapy
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Dialectical behavior therapy or DBT is a modified type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on identifying the negative thinking patterns and encourages positive behavioral changes. The therapy helps treat suicidal and other self-destructive behaviors by teaching patients coping mechanisms and other helpful strategies. One of the fundamental goals of this treatment is to encourage people to live in the moment, understand and regulate their emotions, and work on their relationships with others.

What is dialectical behavior therapy?

The term “dialectical” denotes the idea of combining two approaches to therapy – “acceptance” and “change.” Through DBT, therapists focus on building acceptance perspectives in the patients to bring reassurance and promote balance. It helps in initiating the transformation in the patient’s negative behaviors. Standard dialectical behavior therapy has four different techniques:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group skills training
  • Phone coaching
  • Consultation group

What are the conditions that dialectical behavioral therapy treats?

Dialectical behavioral therapy focuses on treating high-risk and difficult-to-treat patients. It was initially introduced to cure patients with suicidal behaviors and borderline personality disorder, leading to acute emotional distress. Such patients often struggle from the following intense emotional outbreaks:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorders
  • ADHD
  • Anger and aggression
  • Binge eating and insomnia 
  • Rapidly changing moods
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection 

However, it has proven beneficial for other mental health issues that can harm an individual’s safety, family, relationships, and professional life. 

What are the visible symptoms a DBT patient can witness?

Dialectical behavioral therapy helps eliminate impulsive behavior such as self-injury, risky sex, substance abuse, and recurring life crisis, including legal troubles and homelessness. With regular and focused-treatment, it can also help in treating depression and related issues. Patients who have gone through or are undergoing dialectical behavioral therapy can witness the following improvements:

  • Fewer hospitalizations
  • Reduced anger and aggressive moods
  • Decrease in suicidal behaviors
  • Less likely to discontinue the treatment
  • Improved social interaction and functioning

How does DBT work?

An extensive dialectical behavioral treatment focuses on the following four ways to uplift and enhance the essential life skills:

  1. Distress tolerance- The process of feeling intense emotions without engaging in unhealthy behaviors and curbing the thoughts of self-harm, substance abuse, or other aggressive actions earlier used to cope with distress. Therefore, it is an effective method to help people regulate impulsivity and anger. 
  2. Mindfulness- The process of becoming more aware of the inner self and the external situations by focusing attention on the present moment. 
  3. Interpersonal effectiveness- It is the process of navigating conflict and interacting assertively. It helps build positive attributes in the patients that enable them to reconcile, negotiate, relate, maintain and work in social situations.
  4. Emotional regulation- It involves identifying and learning to deal with strong emotions in a healthy way. It enhances work performance, promotes long-term well-being, and enriches interpersonal relationships.

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