How Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Works


How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Works

Could it be right for you?

In the vast world of psychology, we constantly encounter various forms of therapy. These therapeutic tactics help practitioners and patients dig deep and work together to pinpoint and correct thoughts and behaviors. A widely used form of therapy is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or “DBT.” 

So what exactly is DBT?

Let’s break it down. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that gives patients the tools necessary to recognize and understand thoughts and feelings and how they influence behaviors. The ultimate goal of CBT is for patients to be able to identify and change thoughts that may have a negative impact on behavior and emotions.

DBT allows patients to recognize their inner thoughts and feelings in order to learn and develop skills to be more mindful, cope with stressors, regulate emotions, and form and strengthen relationships. This form of therapy was first introduced as a way to help those suffering from borderline personality disorder but is now used to treat other issues, including depression, eating disorders, PTSD, and substance abuse. 

Now that we’ve been introduced to DBT, how do we put it into practice?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy varies in styles. The two most intensive styles of DBT are Standard DBT and Radically Open DBT, or RO-DBT.  The type of DBT a person will require is completely dependent on temperament.

For example, some people just seem always so happy, excited, and full of joy. It seems as though they wear their heart on their sleeve. You may feel that way because they are always agreeable and positive but that is not always the case. (Nobody is perfect!) The main issue UC individuals face is a lack of emotion regulation. UCs can easily become lost in their emotions and don’t know how to cope with their feelings. Standard DBT can help these individuals regulate their emotions and dial down the emotional signal. Standard DBT is ideal for those with an Under Control (UC) temperament and coping style. 

On the other hand, RO-DBT is for those with Over Control (OC) temperament and coping style. Over Controlled almost speaks for itself in the type of person they are describing. These individuals are unlike UCs in regards to showing emotion. OCs tend to mask feelings and suffer from emotional loneliness. They tend to disconnect from themselves as they try to process emotion, and even detach from others, causing relationships to suffer as a result. OCs can be overly cautious, get lost in details, and generally avoid living life fully. RO-DBT aims to help these individuals develop skills to connect with others, so yes, how to chit-chat! These coping mechanisms are aimed to help them express their feelings, and maintain healthy relationships.

Those participating in DBT can expect to participate in different types of therapeutic practices, including individual and group therapy. Group therapy allows patients to learn behavioral skills in a classroom setting and yes -- you guessed it -- homework is involved. This helps patients acquire healthy, new ways to interact with others. Individual therapy is also used, allowing therapists to get to know patients one on one and learn where these behaviors stem from in order to further personalize their treatment.

Individuals undergoing Dialectical Behavior Therapy achieve their goals utilizing four main strategies:

Mindfulness: Being present in the current moment. Patients learn how to focus on the present rather than the past or future. This helps to cope with certain thoughts and emotions even before they surface.

Distress Tolerance: Teaches patients how to accept their current situation and tolerate negative or unpleasant emotions. Four main coping mechanisms are employed, including self-soothing, distraction, thinking of pros and cons, and improving the moment. 

Emotion Regulation: Allows patients to recognize negative or intense emotions, like anger or frustration, and manage them effectively. When these emotions are identified, patients can be taught how to replace them with positive emotions or take the opposite action.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: Teaches patients how to be more communicative and assertive in relationships, establishing stronger connections with others and maintaining healthy relationships. Coping mechanisms for the inevitable interpersonal conflict are also taught.

Combining these four strategies makes for a well-rounded therapy experience, allowing patients to learn, grow, and reach their goals.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy proves to be successful time and time again for its versatile and thorough approach. Combining different therapy environments, like individual and group therapy, allows patients to push their boundaries and learn from therapists and others alike. The four main strategies used in DBT serve their own individual purpose, but when combined come together to offer patients appropriate skills and strategies to identify thoughts and emotions, cope with them, and form bonds with those around them.

Now that we’re fully aware of what DBT is, entails, and aims to do, it’s time to start therapy! At Psyche, we go “by the book” to make sure you get the most authentic and enriching DBT experience. Thanks to our trusted and knowledgeable physicians you can feel confident you’ll be exposed to the absolute best and most effective DBT. Psyche offers Group Therapy in Nashville and Boston, with various times to best accommodate your schedule. Joining a DBT skills group is easy; simply get a referral from your provider or attend an intake session

We look forward to getting to know you and helping you achieve your personal goals through the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy!