DBT (short for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) is a specific type of cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy, developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan.
Originally, it was found to be effective in managing borderline personality disorder (BPD). This condition can be difficult to treat as it is so multi-faceted, however it doesn’t mean it can’t be managed and controlled, giving the patient control of their lives.
Since then, DBT has been found to be helpful for range of other issues, including suicidal behaviour, self-harm, substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and eating disorders.
What does Dialectical Mean?
There is a bit of a stigma attached to both BPD and DBT – however needing this therapy does NOT mean you are a bad person. Rather, it is usually the case that the individual has suffered a very personal trauma or stressor, and has a history of self-harm and/or suicide attempts.
The term ‘dialectical’ means, ‘working with opposites’ – which is the principle underlying DBT. The idea is that it challenges negative thoughts, thereby improving the individuals’s life. It is about acceptance AND change – which may seem to be in conflict. Although the individual is accepted exactly as they are, it is also acknowledged that there is a need for change.
The process of DBT involves developing two sets of acceptance-oriented skills, and two sets of change-oriented skills. It is not a “one off” counselling session, but rather a course that the individual and/or group must commit to. When adhered to, a course of DBT can help with anger management, depression, self-harm, suicide attempts and reduce hospitalisations.
As a result, that individual is encouraged and given strategies to help them move away from a chaotic life, instead creating a life that is personally meaningful and fulfilling.
The two types of acceptance skills which form the core of DBT are mindfulness, and distress tolerance skills which are a natural development from mindfulness skills. It is about developing the ability to accept, in a non-evaluative and non-judgmental fashion, both oneself and the current situation – however acceptance of reality is not approval of reality.
The change-oriented skills build the individual’s interpersonal effectiveness – ie how they interact with others, particularly in situations which are potentially vulnerable or volatile; and help them to regulate their emotions, which are typically intense and incredibly distressing.
If you are curious to find out more about whether DBT could work for you, after reading this brief introduction, contact M1 Psychology.
Author: M1 Psychology
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