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Understanding Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that combines cognitive-behavioral therapy with mindfulness practices. Developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan, DBT was initially created to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, research has shown it to be highly effective in treating other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and substance abuse disorders. DBT offers a practical and evidence-based approach to managing difficult emotions and behaviours.

In this article, we will delve into the fundamentals of DBT therapy by answering questions on its core components and some of the essential skills and strategies utilized in DBT to help individuals manage difficult emotions and behaviours.

What are the Basic Principles of DBT therapy?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of psychotherapy based on the idea that people can make positive changes in their lives by learning new skills and strategies to manage their emotions, behaviours, and relationships.

What are the six main points of dialectical behavior therapy?

At the heart of DBT therapy are six skills individuals can learn and practice to improve their mental health and well-being, each with its specific focus and set of skills. The six main points of dialectical behavior therapy include:

Dialectical thinking: Emphasizing the acceptance of opposing ideas and the importance of finding a balance between them.

Mindfulness: Developing the ability to observe and describe experiences without judgment or criticism.

Distress tolerance: Developing skills to cope with and tolerate distressing situations without resorting to harmful behaviours.

Emotional regulation: Developing skills to identify and regulate intense emotions, particularly those that may lead to impulsive or self-destructive behaviours.

Interpersonal effectiveness: Developing skills to communicate effectively and assertively with others while maintaining self-respect and healthy boundaries.

Walking the middle path: Finding a balance between opposing ideas and behaviours and recognizing the gray areas in life rather than seeing things as black and white.

What is the 24-hour rule in DBT?

The 24-hour rule is a DBT skill that encourages individuals to take a break before responding to a situation that may trigger an emotional reaction. The rule suggests waiting 24 hours before reacting or making a decision, which allows time for the emotional response to subside and for the individual to think more rationally about the situation.

How to find a therapist specializing in DBT to help you or a loved one manage complex emotions and behaviours.

Finding a therapist professionally trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is essential. DBT is not commonly taught in graduate school programs, so it's important to know that a therapist has received specialized training in this modality. One way to find a DBT therapist is through the Psychology Today website, which lists mental health professionals who have completed extensive training in DBT. Also, ask friends or family members if they know of therapists specializing in DBT. It’s also helpful to schedule consultations with potential therapists to gauge their experience treating patients with similar symptoms and see if they fit your or your loved one's needs. Remember, finding the right therapist can make all the difference in achieving success with DBT therapy.

Can I do DBT on my own?

While it is recommended to work with a trained therapist to learn and practice DBT skills, there are resources available for individuals to learn and practice DBT independently. These may include books, online courses, or DBT self-help groups. However, it is essential to note that DBT is a complex treatment approach and may be more effective when guided by a trained therapist who can tailor it to the individual's specific needs and circumstances. Additionally, a therapist can provide support and accountability throughout the process of learning and applying DBT skills.

DBT therapy is a valuable treatment option for individuals struggling with a range of mental health conditions. By focusing on mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and walking the middle path, DBT can help individuals develop skills to manage their emotions and behaviours healthily and effectively. Whether working with a trained therapist or practicing DBT skills independently, individuals can benefit from the practical and evidence-based approaches offered by DBT therapy.

Looking for a DBT-specialized registered psychotherapist near you? Call Nōmina Integrated Health and see how we can help. Online sessions are available!



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