Dialectic Behavioral Therapy: What Is It and Does It Work?
Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that is particularly effective for people with certain mental health conditions. Although developed to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), this form of therapy has been modified to help people with many other disorders as well.
Typically, DBT consists of one-on-one sessions between a specially trained counselor and patient. In some cases, group therapy sessions can benefit DBT patients as well. Understanding the history of DBT and its strategies can help you decide if it’s right for you.
History of DBT
In the 1960s, doctor Aaron Beck tested psychoanalysis on patients with depression expecting to find that it was effective for these clients. When his studies showed that psychoanalysis was not an effective way to treat depression, he began to develop a new form of talk therapy–CBT. This new form of therapy revolved around stopping what he called “automatic thoughts,” which are negative thoughts that appear spontaneously in patients with depression.
About two decades later, CBT had become a common practice in the mental health community. However, Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP and her colleagues observed that the existing techniques were not effective for people with BPD.
In an effort to better treat her patients with BPD, Doctor Linehan devised DBT. She based her new methods on the philosophical concept of dialectics. This philosophy asserts that everything is made up of two opposing sides. When one side becomes stronger than the other, change can occur. With dialectical philosophy in mind, DBT seeks to reconcile two opposing thoughts in the patient: I accept myself and I want to change.
Right from the beginning, it was clear that DBT was effective for many patients with BPD. In the decades since, mental health professionals have modified DBT to help people with other types of disorders as well–namely eating and substance abuse disorders. It is now one of the standard types of CBT and a science-backed form of talk therapy.
Strategies Used in DBT
- Enhance Existing Attributes: DBT counselors encourage clients to find their most positive qualities and work on magnifying them.
- Reduce Problematic Behaviors: DBT patients–with the help of their counselors–should identify the self-destructive behavioral patterns they have and reduce the frequency. Patients may make lists of these behaviors and work on the most severe issues first.
- A Structured Environment: Everyone in a person’s treatment team should be on the same page and use the same techniques with the patient. This may include the client’s counselor, doctor, and loved ones.
- Accept and Change Simultaneously: DBT encourages patients to accept their emotions, past actions, and circumstances. At the same time, patients work to change for a better future.
- Apply Lessons In All Settings: When a client goes through DBT, they learn general strategies for coping with emotions. They can then apply these strategies at work, home, or any other environment.
Start DBT in Georgia
DBT has been shown to help people with many different types of disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorder. As effective as DBT can be, it’s not the right fit for all patients. In some cases, therapists combine DBT with other types of CBT.
If you believe you could benefit from DBT, contact a therapist in our Georgia therapy clinic directory. Our licensed, kind professionals can help you determine if DBT is the right course of action for you.