Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive-behavioral treatment developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., in the 1980s to help people who often experience extremely intense negative emotions that are nearly impossible to manage. These intense and uncontrollable negative emotions are often experienced when the individual is interacting with others—friends, romantic partners, family members. Not surprisingly, who experience intense emotions often struggle in maintaining healthy relationships.

The “D” means “dialectical.” A dialectic is a synthesis or integration of opposites. A DBT-oriented therapist consistently works with an individual to find ways to hold two seemingly opposite perspectives at once, promoting balance and avoiding black and white (all-or-nothing) styles of thinking. In service of this balance, DBT promotes a “both-and” rather than an “either-or” outlook. The dialectic at the heart of DBT is acceptance and change.

Dialectical strategies help us get unstuck from extreme positions. They help us stay “in-balance” so we can reach our ultimate goals as quickly as possible. The Wise Mind is a classic example.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) provides us with new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in our relationships. DBT specifically focuses on providing skills in four key areas.

  1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness focuses on improving our ability to accept and be present in the current moment.
  2. Distress Tolerance: Distress tolerance is geared toward increasing our tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it.
  3. Emotion regulation: Emotion regulation covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in our lives.
  4. Interpersonal effectiveness: Interpersonal effectiveness consists of techniques that allow us to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships.

Using a DBT approach, a therapist uses acceptance and behavioral change strategies by validating and accepting the individual as he or she is.  A DBT therapist appreciates that too much focus on change results in the individual feeling misunderstood and invalidated. Working with people with extreme emotional sensitivity requires careful attention to the balance between acceptance and change. It also requires an assessment of personal boundaries

DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder. However, research shows that DBT has also been used successfully to help people suffering from depression, bulimia, binge-eating, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic-stress disorder, abandonment/attachment problems, and substance abuse. 

Try the Wise Mind Exercise!

Share this:

Like this:

Like Loading...

TASK 6: THE VOICES

  • What was your internal dialogue like?
  • What were the voices in your head saying?
  • Were they mean? Were they positive or negative?
  • Describe what you noticed.

TASK 5: THE SOUND

TASK 4: THE SIGHT AND SMELL

TASK 3: THE TASTE

TASK 2: THE TALK

TASK 1: THE WALK

%d bloggers like this: