Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is all about evolving our ability to cope with problems by identifying and working through the problematic behavior that either instigates or exacerbates our daily challenges. It is an extremely useful therapeutic strategy for working with intense emotions.
This therapy was developed by Marsha Lineham, a woman who grew up with extreme mental health challenges was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and went through hugely traumatic treatments including electroshock therapy and long stints of forced isolation. She escaped this devastating period of her life with a deep longing to help people who suffered from what has come to be known as Borderline Personality Disorder.
The D in DBT is all about dialectics. This means integrating opposites, or more practically, helping us get unstuck from extremities. A major component of this type of therapy is the idea that we must engage in radical acceptance of ourselves and our patterns before we are able to enact change. This acceptance piece is profoundly powerful. It rests on the belief that we cannot move forward if we do not accept ourselves fully in the present moment. This is a major piece of my therapeutic process. I truly believe that radical acceptance of our flaws is the first step to changing our patterns, getting unstuck, and becoming who we want to be.
A major part of DBT is building a toolbox of skills that help us choose more productive or authentic responses in our day-to-day life. DBT skills building focuses on: Mindfulness (connecting with the present moment and developing awareness of our bodily sensations), Distress Tolerance (putting space between ourselves and our destructive reactions), Interpersonal Effectiveness (strengthening our capacity to communicate our needs and boundaries), and Emotional Regulation (choosing new thoughts and behaviors instead of the ones that keep us stuck in destructive spirals). I have a variety of DBT exercises that I use with clients to develop the skills that they struggle with.
By first accepting ourselves and our challenges, we can move through learning these skills that will help us better manage our emotions and relationships. DBT is a wonderful roadmap to navigating our lives when we feel lost amid turbulent feelings and difficult situations.
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