The loss of a loved one, relationship changes, trauma, extreme stress, fear or anxiety, are emotionally challenging for any human being.
However for those already experiencing complex mental health problems, they could potentially trigger a full-blown mental health crisis.
DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy) has been shown to be helpful for individuals in these situations.
What is DBT?
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is a form of evidence-based therapy that is commonly used to treat complex mental health problems.
DBT promotes healthier relationships and equips people with the skills to manage their intrusive thoughts, emotions and painful situations. DBT assists with distress tolerance, through a range of techniques such as distraction, improving the moment, self-soothing, and reflecting on the pros and cons of not being able to tolerate distress.
Learning DBT skills may be helpful for:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD);
- Bipolar Disorder;
- Borderline Personality Disorder;
- Eating Disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa;
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD);
- Major Depressive Disorder;
- Non-Suicidal Self Injury;
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD);
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD);
- Substance use disorder;
- and Suicidal behaviour.
The aim of DBT is to help the individual to develop skills to better manage and cope with their distress. These distress tolerance skills are divided into three categories:
- Crisis survival techniques;
- Sensory body awareness;
- Reality acceptance.
1. DBT Crisis Survival Techniques
Through learning DBT survival skills, the individual has the advantage of evidence-based therapeutic strategies to help them get through the moment of crisis:
- To get through a situation without making it worse.
- To reduce contact with things that upset them.
- To help them comfort and nurture themselves.
- To improve how they are thinking about the crisis, and help them to stay motivated to get through the crisis.
DBT crisis survival skills may be employed when:
- Someone is experiencing intense physical and emotional pain that won’t go away soon.
- The typical response of the individual to their intrusive emotions only makes their situation worse.
- Facing overwhelming situations.
- The individual is extremely motivated to resolve a long-term issue.
2. Sensory Body Awareness Skills
Sensory body awareness is the awareness between body and mind, of our self-movement and body position. Receptors found in our muscles, ligaments, and joints play a messenger role and constantly deliver messages between our central nervous system and brain, informing us of where our body is in space when performing any movement.
For example, we can feel the stretch of a muscle as we extend our limbs. Often however we don’t pay attention to or even notice this type of sensation; sensory body awareness brings consciousness and drives our attention to this tiny communication. It helps to connect our brains to our present experience quickly, helping our brain to be more accepting of reality.
3. Reality Acceptance
We all experience pain during our lives, whether it be physically or emotionally. Often people ignore or reject this pain, instead turning to unhealthy coping habits such as the use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco to eliminate the discomfort or pain for the short-term. Through not accepting reality, rather than going away the pain turns into long-term suffering and produce songoing distress.
I am experienced in teaching individuals these DBT survival skills for handling a mental health crisis, and would be honoured to help equip you with the skills and knowledge to deal confidently with your painful cycle of feeling stuck and out of control.
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.
- Ennis, N., et al. (2020). “Treating posttraumatic stress disorder across cultures: A systematic review of cultural adaptations of trauma‐focused cognitive behavioral therapies.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 76(4): 587-611
- Lajoie, T., et al. (2011). “Development and clinical outcomes of a dialectical behavior therapy clinic.” Academic Psychiatry 35(5): 325-327
- Linehan M. M. (1993). Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: The Guilford Press