When seeking help in the age of a seemingly endless number of therapies, self-help books, meditation and mindfulness apps, and social media platforms offering mental health advice, it can feel difficult to discern which type of help you need. As dictated by the “paradox of choice,” the abundance of options can present an even greater challenge when trying to find the most effective treatment for what you need. One of these options is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Read on to explore whether DBT is the right fit for you.
What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?
DBT, a type of cognitive behavior therapy, has emerged over the last three decades as an innovative approach to the treatment of individuals struggling with emotion dysregulation. Though it was initially developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), DBT has proven to be effective in addressing a wide range of mental health issues related to emotional difficulties. It differs from traditional talk therapies by offering a more structured and skills-based approach. While traditional therapy often involves exploring past experiences and emotions, DBT goes further by equipping individuals with practical skills to navigate and regulate their emotions and behaviors in the present moment. This emphasis on skill-building sets DBT apart as a solution-oriented, emotion-focused, and action-driven treatment, while also incorporating mindfulness and acceptance in its core principles.
DBT is a comprehensive treatment, typically involving weekly individual sessions and skills training groups. Though it requires a significant time commitment and investment up front, DBT is designed to be a relatively short-term intervention. The intensive nature of the therapy aims to address multiple issues simultaneously, targeting underlying skills deficits, enhancing behavioral control, and helping individuals build a life worth living in alignment with their values.
Do You Struggle With…
Understanding your emotions? Do you find it difficult to identify, differentiate, and understand the causes behind your emotional responses?
Accepting your emotions? Do you ever deny your emotional experiences, especially when they don’t align with societal expectations or your own beliefs about emotions? Do you sometimes wish to not feel your emotions, such as sadness or anger?
Feeling overwhelmed by your emotions? Have you ever felt like you’re on an emotional roller coaster, unable to keep up with the highs and lows of your day-to-day? Does this make it difficult to focus on tasks or be present in the moment?
High emotional sensitivity? Perhaps you notice that you are impacted more by your emotions than those around you, or that you are more affected by subtle changes in your environment, such as a friend’s mood or a minor disruption in your routine?
Maintaining healthy relationships? Have you struggled to sustain positive and supportive connections with others over the long term? Do you find yourself continually involved in difficult interactions with those around you?
Navigating conflict? Do you find it difficult to address or resolve issues in your relationships, or to figure out the path forward during conflict?
Communicating and asserting yourself? Are you able to express your needs and boundaries clearly with others? Do you ever avoid difficult conversations out of fear of confrontation or rejection?
Feeling in control of your behaviors? Do you ever feel like your actions and choices are driven by emotions or impulses, rather than intentional consideration and decision-making?
Impulsivity? Can you recall times where you have acted impulsively, without thinking of the potential consequences of your actions? Do you often feel regret about your choices and actions?
Effective problem-solving? Do you experience difficulty with thinking through problems or generating successful and feasible solutions?
Effective coping skills? Have you found that your coping strategies often lead to more negative outcomes down the line? Perhaps you struggle to come up with healthy and constructive ways to handle difficult emotions and situations and often rely on harmful coping mechanisms instead.
Paying attention to the present moment? Are you often distracted by your thoughts and emotions, to the point that you struggle to fully engage in the moment?
Awareness of your thoughts and emotions? Do you ever experience thoughts and emotions as elusive, confusing, or overwhelming? Are you able to observe your thoughts without being swept up in them?
DBT skills target these specific areas of difficulty, making it an effective treatment for addressing a variety of goals at once and affecting positive change throughout multiple aspects of life.
Key Components of DBT Skills Training Include:
A central focus of DBT is to help clients understand and manage their emotions. This includes recognizing and labeling emotions, identifying obstacles to emotion regulation, and developing healthier ways to cope.
DBT teaches skills to improve communication and navigate relationships effectively. This is beneficial for individuals who have interpersonal challenges or struggle with asserting their needs.
DBT equips individuals with skills to tolerate distressing situations without making impulsive or harmful decisions, helping to manage crises and prevent negative coping strategies.
DBT emphasizes the importance of mindfulness, helping individuals stay present in the moment without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can be particularly helpful when dealing with anxiety, depression, or impulsive behaviors.
If you struggle in any of these areas, DBT might be the right choice for you. While the commitment may seem substantial, the potential for transformative change and the acquisition of lifelong skills make DBT a valuable option for those seeking a structured and goal-oriented approach to help build a life worth living.