Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is a branch of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which aims to help individuals develop a healthy way of coping through difficult situations. It focuses on changing both thoughts and behaviours and instills important skills to aid us on our journey to self improvement.


Initially DBT was used to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) but now has been expanded to treat a wide range of mental illnesses. 


What can DBT treat?

  • ADHD
  • Bipolar
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Non Suicidal Self Harm
  • OCD 
  • PTSD 
  • Major Depression


DBT works under two major cornerstones: validation and dialectical thinking. People who seek out DBT often experience a number of self-destructive thoughts and behaviours as a result of trying to cope with their environment. In DBT, our behaviours are validated by the therapist and we are reassured that the way we act and feel makes complete sense. Secondly, the term “dialectical” means the use of two opposing forces. In DBT, we learn how to integrate both acceptance and change into our lives, even those two concepts may oppose each other. 


Originally DBT was so successful with BPD as these individual’s emotions are always heightened and they are generally more sensitive to any kind of social interaction or environmental factor. Others who do not have BPD may not be able to understand and thus might invalidate their feelings. We just wanted to be told that how we are feeling is accepted, and with that then we are strong enough to pursue change. 


Techniques of DBT


The main techniques include

  • Group therapy: learning behavioural skills through role playing 
  • Individual therapy: one on one with therapy between the client and the therapist
  • Phone: Calls made to the therapist in between sessions for tips on coping skills


Beyond this, clients may also be assigned homework such as joining or making a list of emotions they feel in a day.  


Skills Taught in DBT

To assure a continuing  productive and healthy outlook on life, we taught a number of important skills in DBT. 


Mindfulness: In DBT we are taught to live in the present and focus on the now. This can help slow down our racing thoughts when we happen to get overwhelmed.


Distress tolerance: With this skill we learn how to deal with negative emotions properly rather than turning to self destructive behaviours such as self harm.


Interpersonal effectiveness: It is important to know how to successfully navigate conflict while still maintaining healthy relationships. With this skill we learn how to be assertive but still understanding with those around us. 


Emotion regulation: Often we can feel overwhelmed by novel emotions and so it is important that we learn how to identify emotions and acquire the ability to change them.


Benefits of DBT 

Overall, DBT begins the very difficult process of acceptance  rather than constantly berating yourself for who you are. With DBT, we learn to accept what we cannot change and replace negative thoughts and behaviours to healthier ones. Although it is a big time commitment and not an easy fix, DBT has been proven to help people struggling with mental illness find healthier and more positive mindset. 

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