Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) has been used since its development in the 1980’s by Professor Marsha Linehan; in order to treat people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) that were severely suicidal. It is a recognised form of cognitive behavioural therapy, which has brought effective treatment and healing to many sufferers of a previously “untreatable” disorder. It is now used more widely to treat a variety of other mental health disorders.
DBT can be used to treat depression; it can teach depressed people how to take charge of their lives and the ways in which they can change to feel better. Anxiety; DBT teaches the skills that are required to tolerate emotional intensity and modify behaviours in order to reduce intense emotions. Bipolar disorder; those suffering from this can benefit from learning to tolerate the emotions that accompany mood swings as well as implementing behavioural changes needed to reduce emotional reactions. The final disorder it has helped to treat is addiction and eating disorders; the skills learned from DBT can be beneficial in regulating these intense emotions.
DBT assumes that the problems that are exhibited by patients is caused by a skills deficit, or the failure to use effective behaviour when it is needed – these are believed to be a core problem in individuals with BPD. A key focus of DBT is to improve the ability to use skilful behaviour when needed – with particular focus given to learning effective emotion regulation strategies.
The skills taught during DBT help individuals relearn how they process emotions; deal with everyday life and how to communicate effectively. Taking a recovering addict as an example; DBT shows how every decision they make helps to create their total self – this is a relearned technique after a prolonged period of faulty thinking.
The benefits of DBT:
- Teaches mindfulness, which centres on the idea that we should all live more in the present moment. The key teachings from DBT about emotional regulation allows the patient to learn to notice what they are actually experiencing, rather than just getting caught up in the moment itself.
- Reality acceptance; accepting life as and when it comes, recognising that some things cannot be altered in that precise moment and that they must be accepted for what they are. The process of learning to accept small daily experience, allows patients to work towards accepting the more painful events that have happened.
- Achieving a non-judgemental stance; this is about being less judgemental in general as negative judgements tend to boost existing emotional pain, DBT teaches how to pay attention to the judgements you make, and then focuses on how to replace that judgement with a fact and any emotions being felt – this increases self-awareness.
- Shows individuals how to change their own actions in or to create different outcomes in a variety of situations and provides a platform for the recovering patient to see how their words and actions can have a profound effect on the people closest to them.
DBT has taken more of a foothold in the USA; however it has been recognised as a genuine treatment method in the UK. It is an innovative and unique treatment style and has been shown to be effective in treating client groups who have difficult to manage emotional problems. DBT-Training is the only licensed provider of training in DBT in the UK. Receiving training from a Linehan Institute affiliated centre includes the latest developments in the field of DBT.