Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive, evidence-based therapy that emphasizes identifying and changing negative thinking patterns (this is CBT’s emphasis, it is subsumed into DBT yet this it not DBT’s emphasis, DBT emphasizes learning the concept of mindfulness to access skills that increase our ability to regulate our emotions). It brings together the seemingly conflicting ideas of acceptance and change. Therein lies the concept of a dialectic. Acceptance and change is the main dialectic in DBT. This form of psychotherapy was developed in the 1980s by Marsha Linehan as a way to help individuals who had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), especially those who struggled with suicidal tendencies.
While originally developed to treat BPD, this form of therapy has been found to be effective in treating a variety of emotional disorders such as binge eating disorder, treatment-resistant depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. For women who are struggling with self-harming behaviors, difficulty controlling emotions or suicidal urges, DBT programs for women provide a safe space for building new skills toward a better quality of life.
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How DBT Works
DBT is based on the idea that mental health problems are often caused by a deficit of skills. It recognizes that some people react to things that happen to them more intensely than others and that it’s possible to learn to cope in a healthier manner.
Treatment with DBT consists of individual therapy sessions, skills groups, and homework and phone support between sessions. Individual therapy consists of working with a trained therapist who aims to help the patient apply DBT skills to daily life and stay motivated. Group sessions are led by a trained therapist, and participants learn new skills as a group.
Homework is done between sessions to practice skills and includes filling out diary cards to track emotions, behaviors and skills. Phone coaching is available if needed, and therapists participate in consultation to discuss patient care and stay motivated. Skills groups usually meet weekly for six months.
The Four Modules of DBT Programs
Treatment with DBT consists of four modules. These include:
- Mindfulness – This important skill teaches participants to focus on the present and pay attention to what’s happening inside and outside without judgment, rather than giving in to impulsive behavior or negative thought patterns.
- Interpersonal effectiveness – Participants focus on how they interact with those around them and learn skills such as asking for what they need, learning to say no, and dealing with conflict.
- Emotional regulation – Participants learn to recognize and cope with powerful feelings, to be mindful of emotions without judgment, and to avoid giving in to emotional urges.
- Distress tolerance – Effective coping with the ups and downs of life requires the ability to accept and tolerate distress. Participants work on accepting themselves and their current situation. Crisis survival strategies are taught, such as considering pros and cons, self-soothing and distracting.
Enhancing these life skills is done using a multi-stage approach. In the first stage, the most self-destructive behavior is treated, such as self-injury or suicide attempts. Gradually new skills are learned for a better quality of life and improved ability to relate to others.
Benefits of DBT Programs for Women
DBT programs for women may be offered as part of a residential treatment program or on an outpatient basis. This form of therapy is often effective in treating people who haven’t shown improvement using other therapeutic models and may have been considered difficult to treat. Benefits of DBT programs for women include:
- Reduction of suicidal and self-harming behaviors
- Reduction of emotional distress such as anger, depression and self-esteem issues
- Improvement in regulating emotions
- Improved social functioning
- Less likely to drop out of treatment
DBT can help people find a balance between acceptance and change while developing new and healthier coping skills. DBT programs for women can help participants decrease the frequency and severity of symptoms and attain long-lasting improvement. It’s a highly effective form of treatment for BPD and many other mental health disorders.
If you or a loved one are struggling with borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma or another mental health concern, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.