How is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Used?

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, also known as DBT, is a type of counseling technique that falls under the category of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. DBT came about in the late 1980’s and was developed by a psychologist named Marsha M. Linehan as a means of treating borderline personality disorder. It has since come to be used effectively to treat various mental health issues.

About DBT

Addressing the psychosocial aspects of personality is the focus of DBT treatment. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is used a modality to address the strong behavioral patterns of those with borderline personality disorders and similar problems. Sometimes people’s reactions to stressors associated with emotional situations such as romantic, family or other relationships can be more intense or reactive than the baseline emotions of the general population. With higher arousal levels and the tendency to reach emotional stimulation more quickly, these individuals require a specific kind of therapeutic approach.

People with such extreme emotions tend to see things in black and white; they thrive on life’s crises. This emotional intensity can be difficult for the people around them to understand and for the people themselves to cope with. DBT serves to teach the behavioral and coping skills necessary to deal specifically with these highs and lows.

Characteristics of DBT

There are certain characteristics and approaches of DBT that make it an effective treatment for intensely emotional individuals. For one, this therapeutic approach is support-oriented, meaning that it focuses on teaching the client to identify personal strengths and to work on these strengths in order to gain a more realistic perspective on self and life. DBT is also cognitive-based. This counseling approach looks at limiting thought patterns and beliefs, helping the client to identify these patterns and to form more healthy and self-serving thoughts. Finally, DBT is collaborative. This form of therapy involves a great deal of working together between the client and the practitioner. Clients will be expected to engage in role play to practice new learned behaviors, as well as to complete homework assignments and work with others during group counseling sessions.

Types of Sessions

DBT is used in both individual and group sessions. Each setting allows for various components of new skills to be learned, as well as practiced. Individual sessions focus on problems the client is experiencing and learning new ways to address such issues. Discussion will occur about any problems encountered during the prior week and ways in which to address such dilemmas. In group sessions, participants are taught other skill sets that involve multi-person dynamics such as reality acceptance, distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. Group members will then engage in various exercises to allow them to utilize their new found skills in positive ways.

As you can see, DBT is a form of mental health therapy with a rather specific purpose. It is an effective method of working with intensely emotional people who tend to experience relational difficulties in their lives. These clients truly benefit from the opportunity to learn the cognitive and behavioral skills taught through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in order to enhance their lives and help them to gain a healthier perspective on relationships.

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