Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of talk therapy that was originally developed to treat people who were diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), especially those who were chronically suicidal or struggled to regulate their emotions. DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral treatment that is now not only used to treat BPD but also substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, depression, and in some cases used in combination with other treatments for PTSD.
DBT is an effective form of therapy for those who are struggling with serious mental illness. It has been shown to reduce suicidal behavior, self-harm and psychiatric hospitalizations. The full treatment of DBT, or comprehensive DBT, usually takes from six months to a full year.
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Another choice that works for some people is to obtain DBT-informed treatment. This is an option that doesn’t include all the components of comprehensive DBT but may still help an individual build a better life.
Five Components of Comprehensive DBT
DBT aims to help people create lives worth living. For treatment with DBT to be considered comprehensive, it needs to include all four of these modes of treatment, including:
- Individual therapy to enhance motivation
- Skills groups to enhance capabilities
- Phone coaching to generalize skills to natural environment
- Consultation team meetings to enhance therapist motivation and capability
- And sometimes family work or psychoeducation to structure the environment
The heart of DBT is to balance acceptance of the person exactly as they are at this moment in time, with efforts to improve or overcome behaviors that are destructive or maladaptive. This can gradually create a worthwhile life.
Skills Taught in DBT
Learning new behavior skills can help a person to become less prone to react with great intensity to emotional situations, especially those found in close relationships. People who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder experience extreme mood swings and have few, if any, coping methods for dealing with these intense surges of emotion. DBT aims to provide the needed coping skills.
During both weekly individual and group sessions, people can learn skills from four different modules, which include:
- Interpersonal effectiveness
- Emotional regulation
- Distress tolerance
Learning these new skills takes time and practice. People move through specific stages, which are defined by the severity of behaviors:
- Stage 1 – moving beyond being out of control to achieving behavioral control
- Stage 2 – moving toward being able to experience emotions fully
- Stage 3 – becoming able to solve ordinary life problems
- Stage 4 – moving toward completeness
DBT-informed treatment incorporates the principles of DBT but doesn’t require all the aspects or stages of the complete program. With this approach, only the methods that are most needed are used, but DBT-informed treatment doesn’t include all five of the components of comprehensive DBT.
In DBT-informed, different training and skills can be utilized to meet the individual needs of a client rather than moving through specific stages. A person who is not severely ill or suicidal may benefit from the more flexible and personalized approach offered by DBT-informed.
For those with more severe symptoms, comprehensive DBT is often the most effective approach to treatment. Many people find that with DBT there is a low level of treatment dropout, and it’s an option that works when other forms of therapy have been ineffective.
To learn more about our comprehensive DBT treatment programs, call us at (310) 455-5258 or submit the contact form below.