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What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Nancy MacGregor MA, ATR-BC, LPC, ACS, Clinical Director

Woman visiting therapist for consultation

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy that helps people develop new skills in order to manage intense emotions and decrease conflict. There is a strong connection between how emotions affect interpersonal relationships and DBT works to create harmony between the two.

DBT focuses on addressing and improving upon four key areas:
1. Mindfulness – being present in the current moment
2. Distress tolerance – building a tolerance to negative emotions
3. Emotion regulation – managing and changing responses to intense emotions
4. Interpersonal effectiveness – communicating in a way that maintains self-respect, is assertive, and strengthens relationships

When Is DBT Used?

DBT is often used when someone is exhibiting self-destructive behaviors as a way to deal with strong emotions. Self-destructive behaviors typically include eating disorders, such as binge-eating and bulimia, and substance use disorder. It is also beneficial for people experiencing borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

Oftentimes, people that may benefit from DBT tend to see things as black and white, with no in between. DBT promotes a both-and outlook rather than an either-or one. This is done by finding ways to accept two conflicting or opposing perspectives happening at once.

How Does DBT Work?

DBT incorporates dialectics which is a philosophical process based on the idea that everything is made up of opposites and change can only take place when there is a “dialogue” between the two opposing sides. Dialectics assumes that all things are interconnected, change is inevitable and constant, and when opposites come together, a closer version of the truth is formed.

Another technique that is utilized in this type of therapy is validation. When Dr. Marsha Linehan and her colleagues were developing DBT in the late 1980s, they discovered that when validation is brought into the equation, people are more likely to cooperate and embrace the idea of change rather than fight it.

DBT usually consists of two types of therapy: individual therapy and group therapy. In individual therapy, a client and therapist sit down one-on-one to address any and all concerns. It is here that a therapist will provide a client with the DBT skills they need and can apply to day-to-day life.

Group therapy consists of a small group of individuals all striving towards the same goal. If individual therapy is where DBT skills are learned, group therapy is where they are put into action. Since DBT has such a strong focus on relationships, a group setting allows participants to role-play different scenarios and try new ways of interacting with one another.

DBT Therapy at Harmony Bay Wellness

If you believe you might be a good candidate for cognitive-behavioral therapy such as DBT, contact Harmony Bay Wellness today to schedule an appointment with one of our mental health professionals. Each one of our therapists takes the time to create a customized treatment plan that is specific to you as an individual. Just because you have a mental health or substance use disorder does not mean you cannot have strong, long-lasting relationships. DBT makes sure of it. Contact us today to learn more.

Treatment with Harmony Bay

Harmony Bay is an outpatient behavioral health service that offers primary mental health treatment for a variety of mental health disorders. Our mission is to make mental health care convenient and affordable while providing an unmatched experience to our clients. contact us today by calling 855.765.6399.