Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Being overcome by emotions, thoughts, and questionable behaviors is nothing new to anyone, particularly in this day and age. Normally a quick music session or ranting to a friend is enough to get over these rough patches, but when these factors are present for long periods it may be a reason for concern.

This is where DBT comes into play. DBT will teach you how to cope with the stresses and problems of everyday life and emotional distress without plunging off the deep end or turning to alcohol or substances as a crutch. DBT is available for anyone as a stand-alone practice or it can be incorporated into a recovery program for anyone struggling with addictions.

girl at a dbt treatment center in New Jersey

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that helps people who struggle with emotional regulation and stress management. It combines cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which emphasizes changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, with dialectical methods, which focus on acceptance and balance.

DBT helps give people the skills to live in the present moment, manage their emotions, cope with distress, and improve their relationships. DBT was originally developed for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it has been adapted for and proven effective at treating other mental health conditions as well.

What Are The Basic Components Of DBT?

DBT has four main components, or modules, that work in tandem to teach people new skills and support their recovery progress. These are:

  • Individual therapy. This component will see you meeting one-on-one with your therapist, typically once a week, to work on your personal goals and challenges. These sessions allow your therapist to help you apply the skills you learn during group sessions to your specific situations and problems. Your therapist will further help you monitor your emotions, behaviors, and thoughts while providing feedback and encouragement.
  • Group skills training. This involves you attending a group session, at least once a week, with others also in DBT. The group will be led by a trained facilitator who will teach you the four core skills modules of DBT: mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. You will learn how to practice these skills in your daily life and share your experiences and challenges with the group.
  • Phone coaching. If you feel like you need a bit more out of your DBT sessions, you can contact your therapist, usually by phone or text, for extra support and guidance. Your therapist will help you utilize the skills you learn in DBT to cope with stressful situations or emotions that arise at the moment. Phone coaching is brief and focuses on solving immediate problems and preventing harmful behaviors.
  • Therapist consultation team. This is where therapists who provide DBT meet to consult with one another and receive supervision. This collective helps each therapist stay motivated, adhere to the DBT principles and protocols, and address any issues they encounter in their work with clients. The team also serves as a support group that provides feedback and encouragement and ensures the quality and effectiveness of the DBT treatment.

What Are The Modules Of DBT?

DBT is made up of four modules, or skill areas, that teach people how to accept themselves and their situations, as well as how to make positive changes in their lives. The four modules of DBT are:

  1. Mindfulness. In this module, you will learn how to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and actions in the present moment, without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness will help you focus on what is happening right now, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
  2. Emotion regulation. This module will teach you how to understand and manage your emotions, rather than being overwhelmed or controlled by them. Emotion regulation will help you identify and name your emotions, reduce your vulnerability to negative emotions, increase your positive emotions, and cope with emotional crises.
  3. Interpersonal effectiveness. This module will instruct you in more effective communication with others, especially in situations that are challenging or conflictual. Interpersonal effectiveness will help you express your needs and wants better, set boundaries, learn to say no, ask for help, and maintain healthy relationships.
  4. Distress tolerance. This module will help you learn how to tolerate and survive stressful situations without resorting to harmful or impulsive behaviors. Distress tolerance helps you to accept reality as it is, even when it is painful or unpleasant, and to use coping strategies that are safe and effective.

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What Are The Benefits Of DBT?

In DBT, you and your therapist will work together to resolve the contradiction between accepting yourself and change to facilitate positive changes in your mental health treatment. This will begin by offering validation, which will help you become more cooperative and reduce the risk of you balking at the idea of change.

  • DBT will help you accept the reality of your life and your behavior, as well as teach you how to change your life for the better and discard your unwanted behaviors.
  • DBT has proven to be effective in treating a broad spectrum of mental health conditions, including borderline personality disorder (BPD), self-harm, suicidal behavior, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder (SUD), eating disorders, depression disorders, and anxiety disorders.
  • DBT results in less self-harming or suicidal behavior and anger, and fewer days of inpatient hospitalization for people with borderline personality disorder.
  • DBT is an evidence-based treatment that goes beyond mental health illness and improves you with an improved quality of life. It will increase your sense of self-worth and self-respect. You can access your DBT clinician or therapist at the moment when you are struggling.

DBT helps you manage your behavior and emotions by teaching you new skills to cope with day-to-day life and find new behaviors to replace detrimental ones. It will help you recognize why you struggle with the things you do.

How To Get The Most Out Of DBT?

DBT can work wonders in your life and help you learn how to deal with stress and problems more effectively. Committing yourself to the following steps will help you get the most out of DBT:

  • Make sure you attend weekly individual therapy and group therapy sessions, where you will learn and practice DBT skills, such as mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.
  • Complete homework assignments, which allow you to apply your newly acquired DBT skills to your daily life and track your progress and challenges. Homework will help you reinforce what you learned in the sessions and positively change your behavior and thoughts.
  • Reach out to your therapist between sessions for phone coaching if you feel you need it. Your therapist will help you practice your DBT skills in the moment when you face a difficult situation or emotion. Phone coaching is brief and focused on solving the immediate problem and preventing harmful behaviors.
  • Always be open and honest with your therapist and yourself, and be open to feedback and guidance. DBT requires you to be willing to accept yourself as you are, while also acknowledging that change is necessary. This therapy also requires you to trust your therapist and follow their recommendations, no matter how challenging or uncomfortable they may be.
  • Be patient and persistent, and acknowledge your achievements. DBT is not a spot-fix, but a long-term process that requires hard work and commitment. DBT can help you improve your quality of life but also involves facing your shortcomings and emotions, which can be painful and scary.

Can I Do Dialectical Behavior Therapy By Myself?

You may be feeling like the whole process of DBT sounds simple enough to do at home, but that is not strictly the case. DBT is complicated and cannot be undertaken in a way that will be beneficial to you without the guidance and supervision of a trained therapist.

There are some things you can do on your own, however, to help you develop new coping skills. You could try such things as mindfulness, breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation. These skills will help you improve your distress tolerance.

Keep in mind that these techniques cannot substitute professional help. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health issue, seeking out the help of a qualified mental health expert is always the first thing you should do.

dbt treatment center

Learn More About Our DBT Treatment Center at Peak Wellness

Mental health issues, as well as drug or substance addictions, are not uncommon and they are nothing to be ashamed of. Treatment is becoming more widely available and sought after every day. DBT is a powerful tool in the arsenal of trained professionals to help patients with addictions and other disorders.

Contact us today to speak with our admissions team about enrollment or to learn more about how our DBT program can help you.