DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)

Dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT is an evidence-based, comprehensive therapy derived from cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. It was developed by Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D., in the 1980s to help patients cope with painful emotions. The therapy provides clients with specific therapeutic skills and was initially intended to treat borderline personality disorder. By focusing on the psychosocial aspects of treatment, DBT has been shown to be helpful to anyone struggling with a wide range of mental illnesses and addictions. Components of DBT include individual psychotherapy sessions and DBT skills training groups, facilitated by a trained therapist that ensures all essential elements are addressed during the meetings.

The primary goal of DBT is to help clients discover a life worth living. This is accomplished by identifying harmful, unhealthy behaviors and replacing them with actions that are both positive and life-enhancing. Clients learn acceptance-based strategies and problem-solving skills that will help them to achieve these goals no matter what life situations might arise.

What does DBT Treat?

When it was first developed, DBT was primarily used as a treatment for bipolar disorder and for individuals that were chronically suicidal. While it continues to be the first choice in treatment modalities for these clients, it has also been shown to be helpful to anyone experiencing the following mental health concerns and disorders:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorders (SUDs)

To help clients manage the symptoms of these conditions, DBT teaches specific behavioral skills such as regulation of emotions, mindfulness, tolerance of distress and effectiveness in interpersonal communication and relationships.

Benefits of DBT

The behavioral skills learned through DBT offer a myriad of benefits:

  • Mindfulness – Through mindfulness meditations, clients discover how to be present and focused on their emotions through any circumstances.
  • Distress Tolerance – Some people are prone to reacting more intensely to certain emotional situations. By learning skills to address distress tolerance, clients realize how to improve impulse control and tolerate emotions more effectively.
  • Emotion Regulation – Also a benefit for those who experience more intense reactions to events and relationships, emotion regulation helps clients identify their feelings and emotions while stabilizing emotional responses.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness – Because people that are experiencing these various conditions often have difficulties in relationships as well, this component of DBT can be very beneficial to many of our clients. The skills that are learned provide the client with strategies for coping with interpersonal conflicts and for improving relationships.

How it Works

To achieve the goals of DBT, the therapy will include a variety of components to ensure a comprehensive therapeutic approach:

  • Capability Enhancement – The skills listed above are taught to help clients identify and manage emotions, improve personal relationships and live in the present moment.
  • Motivational Enhancement – The therapist will track the progress of the client to encourage the reduction of problematic behaviors and the replacement of them with healthy actions. Severe issues are generally monitored first so that progress comes relatively quickly.
  • Generalization – Techniques are utilized throughout the therapy sessions to help clients apply what they learn across a broad spectrum of situations. Different environments, such as home, school and work may be referred to during this step in the treatment.
  • Structured Environment – The treatment plan will be structured so that other treatment modalities are designed to support and reinforce what is learned during DBT sessions. This structuring helps our clients apply what they have learned in a variety of environments and situations as well.

The therapy takes place through a collection of individual and group therapy sessions as a part of our IOP services at Avalon Integrative Wellness.

DBT at Avalon Integrative Wellness

DBT is a service provided through the IOP at Avalon Integrative Wellness. Our team of professionals will design your program to include DBT if appropriate, as well as other therapies to ensure your treatment is both comprehensive and successful. To learn more about DBT, our IOP or any of the other services we provide, contact Avalon Integrative Wellness today at 888-266-9048.