Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

In the depths of mental illness, you may find yourself experiencing intense emotions. You may feel out of control or like your feelings and thoughts are dictating your life. Feeling powerless against your emotions can make it difficult to heal from mental health issues. You don’t have to live your life under the thumb of your emotions. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) may be able to help you overcome them.

What Is DBT?

DBT is a type of talk therapy or psychotherapy. The DBT approach was invented in the 1970s by Dr. Marsha Linehan, who wanted to build off of the recently developed cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). She felt that while CBT was an effective therapeutic intervention for some, others needed an approach that incorporated mindfulness practices such as emotional validation. Since then, DBT has become a widespread and effective treatment for serious mental health conditions, especially borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

DBT is, at its core, a skill-based therapy. That means that it focuses on cultivating practical skills that actively combat the symptoms of mental health disorders. There are four main skills that provide the cornerstones for this approach:

  • Distress tolerance is the ability to remain composed during stressful situations. Learning to accept your emotions but not let them control you is an important skill. 
  • Emotional regulation is the practice of acknowledging and managing difficult emotions. Many people with serious mental health issues struggle with this. 
  • Interpersonal effectiveness focuses on improving communication between yourself and your loved ones to foster stronger, healthier dynamics. This provides a solid support system and can boost self-esteem.
  • An attitude of non-judgment for yourself and others is perhaps the most difficult skill to learn. A hallmark of mindfulness is accepting your thoughts and feelings for what they are and not dismissing them as irrational or delusional. This is also called emotional validation. 

Benefits of DBT

DBT can provide a number of benefits for clients facing mental health disorders and/or substance use disorder (SUD). While this therapeutic approach was originally developed to treat BPD, recent findings show promise in using DBT to treat SUD and depression

Having low self-esteem as a result of internalized shame can contribute to thoughts of self-harm and suicide. The first step to boosting your self-esteem is accepting yourself the way you are. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but DBT can help you move in a direction of self-love and healing.

Shame is a common contributing factor to mental health disorders and SUD. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues, people facing them often feel embarrassed, broken, and alienated. You may find yourself engaging in a lot of negative self-talk. For example, you may think things like, “There’s something wrong with me,” “Why can’t I just be normal?” and “I hate that I can’t control myself.” These thoughts come from internalized shame and judgment of your symptoms. They are not productive thought patterns, and they may contribute to the intensifying of your mental health issues. 

DBT works to combat shame and judgment with empathy and acceptance. This approach emphasizes that mental illness does not make you broken, wrong, or bad. It is a part of you that you can learn to accept and manage. 

DBT may also help you:

  • Reduce thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm
  • Regulate intense emotions
  • Build stronger interpersonal relationships
  • Reduce emotional outbursts
  • Build healthy coping mechanisms
  • Increase your sense of self-worth
  • Manage symptoms of mental illness

At Athens Area Commencement Center, we know that mental illness and SUD often go hand-in-hand. We want to help you address the root cause of your addiction and/or mental illness. If you’re facing SUD, you may need to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Often, substances are used as a way to cope with or escape from symptoms of a mental health disorder. This can lead to dependence and addiction. DBT can help you replace substance use with healthier coping mechanisms, which can combat the disease of addiction. 

Getting Treatment

As a form of talk therapy, DBT is usually utilized in a one-on-one therapy environment. In some cases, it can also be used in group sessions or family therapy. Most often, however, and especially at the beginning of your healing journey, this approach is used in private therapy sessions with you and your counselor. This can help reduce feelings of judgment and shame from others, which can impede therapy. 

DBT can be incorporated into a treatment plan at any stage in your care. It’s recommended that it be utilized as soon as possible as this treatment can help stabilize clients who are in extreme emotional distress. However, it can also be integrated for clients who are further along in their treatment journies. 

This approach can be used to treat:

  • Severe depression
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • BPD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • SUD
  • Binge-eating disorders
  • Suicidal ideation and other self-destructive behaviors

Whether DBT is the right choice for your treatment is dependent on a few different factors. Your diagnosis and your specific treatment needs will determine the best care plan for you. DBT is most often suggested for clients who struggle with intense and debilitating emotions. If you think this approach may be the right choice for you, talk to your care team. You will be evaluated by our team of caring professionals to determine if you meet the criteria for DBT treatment. 

At Athens Area Commencement Center, we believe that everyone deserves to heal from mental illness in an environment free from shame and judgment. That’s why we believe in the effectiveness of DBT. We can provide evidence-based treatment options along with comprehensive education to empower you as you embark on your healing journey. 

You don’t have to suffer from symptoms of mental illness alone. To get the help you deserve, call Athens Area Commencement Center at (706) 546-7355.