Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that was created by Marsha Linehan and is one of several evidence-based treatments. DBT integrates elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Zen mindfulness. It was originally developed to treat those who had Borderline Personality Disorder, but has been shown to be an effective treatment for many different disorders, including anxiety, bipolar, eating disorders, addictions, and depression.
How can DBT help me?
DBT skills have been proven to help increase well-being, attention to the present moment, and positive emotional experiences while decreasing negative emotions and distress. Many people who feel overwhelmed by their emotions and like they cannot cope with life–or wish to cope better–can benefit from DBT skills.
Elements of DBT
There are four elements in DBT. Every DBT “module” or group of skills has mindfulness as its foundation.
Mindfulness is the first element of DBT. In its simplest form, “mindfulness” is bringing oneself back to the present. It is the act of noticing one is not present and coming back to the ‘now’. It is a deceptively simple skill, that is an ever-moving target.
Mindfulness is at the root of DBT because, without being aware of the now and what you are doing or feeling, you cannot change your response. Mindfulness helps us to implement new skills.
The second element of DBT is Interpersonal Effectiveness, or “how I get along with others.” This skill encompasses how one verbalizes their needs, how they get their needs met, how they build healthy relationships, how they end unhealthy relationships, and how one balances their relationships and their needs.
Interpersonal effectiveness skills help us all to navigate relationships, both personal and professional. It can also be effective in helping us have a healthier relationship with ourselves.
Emotion Regulation is the third element of DBT. Emotion regulation is how we feel and control our feelings. It is an essential skill to help us feel confident in ourselves and to have healthy relationships.
In this module, you will learn how to name your emotions, know what your emotions feel like, decrease negative emotions, decrease emotional vulnerability, and decrease emotional suffering. This element of DBT helps people to cope with their emotions and the world around them.
Many times, we are not in control of how we feel, but we can be in control of how we express our feelings.
The fourth element to DBT, Distress Tolerance, is how we help ourselves when we are upset. In distress tolerance we learn skills for how to cope in a crisis, continue to live in acceptance (even when we do not like reality), and how to take care of our own needs. The distress tolerance module teaches adults how to calm and soothe themselves in difficult situations.