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What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

What is dialectical behavior therapy? This type of therapy allows patients to better understand how their thoughts and behaviors are connected.

What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical behavioral therapy, also known as DBT, is one of many different types of cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a form of psychotherapy that helps better understand the process of the mind and how thoughts and behaviors are connected.

DBT was created as a method of treating borderline personality disorder. However, it has been proven to be beneficial in the treatment of many other types of mental health and mood disorders as well. 1

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What is a Dialectical Behavior Approach?

As a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy is designed to help patients and therapists approach mental processes. This includes how thoughts, feelings, and beliefs may impact judgment and behavior. 

However, dialectical behavioral therapy is unique in that it is designed for conditions where emotions may be more intensely felt. As a result, dialectical behavioral therapy may be better used to treat certain conditions more so than others.

What Are DBT Sessions Like?

Dialectical behavioral therapy can be either short- or long-term, depending on the exact needs of the patient. However, regardless of the duration of dialectical behavior therapy, sessions tend to be similar. 2 

The first session begins with an agreement between the patient and their therapist to work together. This includes honest, productive communication. From here, the patient will undergo different conversations and activities geared towards better understanding their mind and how their thoughts work. This is known as mindfulness.

Oftentimes, a therapist will assign “homework” after a dialectical behavioral therapy session. This can range from keeping a diary to actively recalling and utilizing techniques learned during a previous session.

Techniques Used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

There are two core concepts in dialectical behavioral therapy: acceptance and change. Acceptance is important to learn first, as it allows for the individual to better recognize where healthy change is needed. However, the change allows for the individual to learn where they are doing the best they can.

Acceptance Techniques

In dialectical behavioral therapy, acceptance is focused on creating mindfulness and a positive headspace. Here, individuals learn to accept areas where they’ve excelled to the best of their abilities. This allows for them to learn where it is necessary to focus their energy on improvement rather than fine-tuning areas they’ve done their best in. Some acceptance techniques include cultivating mindfulness and awareness as well as a better understanding of how the individual interacts with those around them.

Change Techniques

Change techniques involve learning to better meet your own needs. This includes learning to manage stress as well as learning to better regulate emotions. Some of the change techniques that may be utilized during dialectical behavioral therapy include:

  • Self-soothing
  • Understanding the pros and cons of a situation
  • Understanding emotions and their sources

What Is DBT Used For?

There have been several studies done on the effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy as a treatment. While research in this area is still developing, so far, researchers believe that dialectical behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for a variety of disorders. While it was developed in the 1970s as a treatment for BPD, it has since been used for other disorders as well. 3

Some of the disorders and conditions that may be benefited from DBT include:

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Drug Addiction
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal behavior

Benefits of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy. This means that research has been done as well as trial efforts, both of which have shown that DBT offers several benefits to patients.

One of the most notable benefits of dialectical behavioral therapy is the increased safety for patients. One study showed that patients who engaged in 12 months' worth of dialectical behavior therapy experienced a reduction in mental health crises. This includes suicide attempts, emergency visits, and hospitalizations. 4

Additional DBT Benefits

Other benefits of DBT may include:

  • Improves relationships
  • Less self-harm behavior and anger
  • Improved quality of life
  • Less drug and alcohol misuse
  • Improves depressive symptoms

The benefits of dialectical behavior therapy may vary based on the individual. This is because DBT is a type of psychotherapy which means that results depend on the individual and the effort they place into it. Understanding exactly what DBT sessions involve and properly preparing are some of the best ways to ensure that you receive the most benefits during your treatment.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Are There Any Risks Involved with DBT?

Because of its variety of evidence-backed benefits, dialectical behavior therapy can be a worthwhile treatment for many people struggling with borderline personality disorder or other mental health conditions. However, there are some risks involved.

Potentially Reliving Traumatic Events

First, for those dealing with trauma, DBT can involve confronting this trauma in order to better understand the feelings surrounding a specific event or situation. For some, this can be especially distressing and may increase the severity of symptoms.

Potentially Not the Right Fit

There is also the risk of dialectical behavioral therapy not being the right treatment option. Although dialectical behavior therapy is beneficial for many people, it does have a unique style that may not be the best choice for all patients. Dialectical behavioral therapy is a logic-based treatment with a large time commitment, and so it may not be the best treatment option for those looking for spirituality-based treatments or who need something to start helping them sooner rather than later.

What to Look for in a Dialectical Behavior Therapist

There are two key factors to look for when searching for the right dialectical behavior therapist for you. First, it is important to find a certified healthcare professional with experience in DBT. It is also important to find a therapist that you can connect to and feel comfortable around. This is because DBT does involve dealing with past events and emotions, so feeling secure is an important step. 

At Boardwalk Recovery Center, you’ll be able to experience professional evidence-based treatments, including CBT and DBT, in a safe and nurturing environment. Our certified staff and therapists are dedicated to helping you along every step of your recovery journey.
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