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The Benefits of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Dialectical behaviour therapy, or DBT, is an innovative psychotherapy that was developed in the 1980s by psychologists Marsha Linehan and Valerie Porr. Because of its success at treating patients with suicidal tendencies and other mental health issues like borderline personality disorder, it has grown in popularity in recent years as both a therapy method and a treatment strategy for addiction recovery. 

What is DBT?

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a skills-based treatment that’s helpful for individuals with borderline personality disorder and other mental health conditions. It helps patients change their responses to upsetting thoughts, feelings, and situations in order to avoid self-destructive behaviours. DBT teaches emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness; it also teaches skills such as how to ask for what you need and how to regulate your emotions when confronted with a challenging situation. Like most evidence-based treatments, DBT was developed through clinical trials that compared it with existing therapies; its creators found that people who went through DBT showed greater improvement than those who did not—in fact, they found that nearly 80 percent of participants no longer met diagnostic criteria after treatment.

Mindfulness in DBT

Mindfulness is a skill used to assist with emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. By teaching individuals how to be mindful, DBT helps people recognize unhelpful habits in their thinking, feeling, and behaving. Individuals who engage in mindfulness exercises may be better able to cope with intense emotions without acting on them or overreacting. For instance, one DBT exercise involves learning how to monitor your body sensations by simply paying attention to what your body feels like as you breathe slowly in and out.

Emotion Regulation in DBT

The primary goal of dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is to help people learn to regulate emotions, instead of avoiding or over-reacting to them. The treatment has its roots in Zen Buddhism and Eastern philosophy; it incorporates mindfulness techniques, which are used to increase self-awareness and acceptance of thoughts and feelings. When a situation occurs that triggers an intense emotional response, individuals enrolled in DBT are encouraged to pause, observe their thoughts and feelings in real time and choose healthier responses.

Distress Tolerance in DBT

In DBT, distress tolerance refers to a person’s ability to tolerate emotional discomfort, including anxiety and negative mood. The goal of DBT is not to eliminate distress but rather to build up your tolerance levels so that you can work through it effectively. To do so, you must first identify what’s causing your feelings and make it manageable by breaking down overwhelming situations into more easily managed pieces.  You might also try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. If these don’t help, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor who specializes in helping people with BPD.

Interpersonal Effectiveness in DBT

Those suffering from BPD often struggle with many interpersonal relationships and end up isolating themselves. Part of learning to live with BPD is learning how to better deal with interpersonal interactions. Interpersonal effectiveness (IE) is a skill taught in DBT. It involves responding appropriately and effectively to other people, rather than reacting emotionally or inappropriately, which can lead to isolation and unnecessary conflict.

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