Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a combination of skills training and therapy that helps those with borderline personality disorder to control their emotions, manage stress, improve relationships, and increase mindfulness. The treatment was originally developed in the late 1980s by Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington as a way to help clients learn to respond differently to stressful situations rather than habitually reacting in unhealthy ways. While it has become more widely used over the past three decades, it’s still important for therapists to get DBT training so they can be effective in helping their clients learn these important skills.
What is DBT?
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was developed by Marsha Linehan in response to her frustration over treatment failures and suicide attempts in chronically suicidal individuals. The overall goal of therapy was to help clients learn behaviours that would reduce their impulsivity, emotional reactivity, and self-injurious behaviour. Since then, it has been adapted for use with many other populations. In fact, a variety of empirically supported psychological treatments were originally based on or derived from concepts or principles derived from DBT (e.g., CPT and MDFT). Dialectical Behaviour Therapy focuses on teaching clients mindfulness skills, distress tolerance skills, emotion regulation skills and interpersonal effectiveness skills as a way to improve their lives as well as reduce suicidal behaviour.
How will learning DBT make you a better therapist?
Learning DBT will improve your therapy skills because it provides you with a concrete, easy-to-follow framework for therapeutic intervention. It can be overwhelming to try to use all of these different strategies and theories during an appointment; clients need structure in order to achieve lasting results. DBT offers you a way to streamline interventions and focus on what really matters—the client’s well-being.
How can using DBT help your clients?
Many times, when people are first going into therapy, they are looking to resolve some pain or mental disorder. The primary goal of psychotherapy is to help people live a healthier life with all its ups and downs, not necessarily be cured of their problems. What a lot of people do not know about DBT therapy, however, is that it can also help patients to get better faster. Here’s why. What if a patient just had an argument with someone in his/her family? In traditional talk therapy you would work through ways to improve communication skills in hopes of solving all future conflicts. However, in DBT one must learn coping strategies as well as problem-solving skills immediately following intense situations. This way an individual does not have time to ruminate over something that already happened and has nothing else scheduled at that moment because he/she is left thinking about what just occurred. Therefore, when there is nothing else on your schedule you are still processing what just happened rather than giving yourself another chance to ruminate and possibly feel worse than before.
What does learning DBT look like?
Learn how to recognize and manage your own emotions in a healthy way. This skill, known as emotion regulation, helps us to act more skilfully when our emotions feel intense. The greater ability we have to manage our own emotional responses, to be present with them in such a way that they don’t completely hijack us and make us behave in ways that aren’t consistent with our values or goals, gives us better control over our behaviour.