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Psychotherapy session

DBT: A Therapeutic Mindfulness Treatment Experience

Psychotherapy is an effective, leading treatment option to help reduce and alleviate symptoms of mental distress. Psychotherapy focuses on helping people learn how to identify their thought and behavior patterns and is essential in mental health treatment because it increases well-being and promotes healing.

There are multiple forms of psychotherapy, with one of the most popular being cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps individuals learn how to control destructive and intrusive thoughts, especially thoughts that tend to have a negative influence on emotions. CBT identifies, challenges, and replaces harmful thought patterns with more objective and realistic ones.

Behavioral therapy aims to address what behavioral patterns worsen mental distress or intensify problems and identify new behaviors to replace old ones.

Similarities Between DBT and CBT

Another useful form of psychotherapy, called dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that enhances CBT’s effectiveness by incorporating mindfulness. While CBT focuses on changing the automatic internal reactions and thoughts within a person, DBT focuses on how a person interacts with others.

Both CBT and DBT work to address unhealthy patterns of thought and address how these patterns may cause self-destructive beliefs and behaviors. A CBT or DBT session would involve working with a therapist to create more constructive ways to think, working to create more beneficial beliefs and behaviors. Although sessions are intimate and productive, most of the work happens with a client challenging their thought patterns outside of a treatment session.

How DBT Differs From CBT

The largest difference between both psychotherapies is that dialectal behavioral therapy emphasizes acceptance, validation, and reassurance of distressing thoughts and behaviors instead of trying to eliminate them. These mindfulness components help a client to come to terms with the feelings that they are struggling with. Other forms of treatment work to change thoughts and behaviors instead of normalizing them, which may make it more difficult for clients to accept that change is possible.

With this acceptance in mind, DBT also actively discourages “black and white” thinking and asks clients to consider if two thoughts or opinions might both be true at the same time. Taking a mindful approach to conflicts both internal and external can give clients a sense of peace as they appreciate the nuances in life.

What Does a DBT Session Look Like?

Some therapists or treatment centers may consider evaluating you to see if DBT is the right treatment for you. Most psychotherapy appointments last about an hour. Typically, sessions take place once a week, but in a treatment setting, this could be more frequent.

In a session, you will develop unique goals for your treatment experience. Most goals involve:

  • Initiating safety protocols to help reduce suicidal and self-harming behaviors
  • Reducing problem behaviors that may interfere with the therapeutic process
  • Addressing what thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are interfering with your quality of life
  • Learning new skills to replace problem behaviors, putting you on the right path to achieve your goals

Finding a Balance of Acceptance and Change

Mental health professionals aim to use a balance of acceptance and change techniques in DBT sessions. Acceptance techniques involve methods of reflection, self-discovery, and acknowledging self-worth. Acceptance also helps because it encourages a client to make sense of their behavior rather than just labeling it as unhealthy.

Change techniques involve challenging unhelpful thoughts and finding new, helpful ways of dealing with mental distress. Sometimes sessions may include role-playing to mimic interacting with others and practicing new skills learned in therapy.

What Is DBT Used to Treat?

Dialectal behavior therapy is used to treat numerous mental conditions such as borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, addiction, and many others. Because of DBT’s nature of acceptance, it is a leading treatment for distress that surfaces as self-destructive behavior and low self-esteem. If you are someone that struggles with regulating emotions or tends to have unstable relationships or impulsive behavior, DBT may be a great treatment option for you.

An Attitude of Mindful Acceptance

DBT focuses heavily on mindfulness, especially in regards to awareness of oneself. Training an individual to gain complete awareness of their internal experience can help them to identify root causes for problem behaviors. Awareness helps with self-discovery and increases one’s sense of self-worth. 

DBT teaches a person to increase tolerance to adversity. In life, we are inevitably going to experience challenging situations. DBT can train a person to be tolerant of others, especially learning that each person’s viewpoint will be unique.

Every DBT experience will vary from person to person. The core of the DBT treatment experience is that it explores the unique and subjective nature of a client. Every DBT treatment should be as individualized as possible, basing skills training and discussion on the subjective experiences of the client.

Dialectal behavioral therapy is an effective form of psychotherapy that combines approaches from both cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness. Through dialectal behavioral therapy, a client will learn how to identify and accept challenging or intrusive thoughts and behaviors. By accepting mental distress, a client becomes empowered by their willingness and ability to change. DBT may be the right treatment for you if you struggle with emotion regulation, unstable relationships, or impulsive behavior. SoCal Mental Health offers a range of services designed to treat mental health disorders and provide relief from symptoms of distress. We offer both cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectal behavior therapy, among many other forms of psychotherapy. Our treatment center is non-institutionalized, prioritizing social rehabilitation as the foundation for your success in long-term mental health recovery. For more information about the treatment services we offer, give us a call at (714) 328-4760. We look forward to speaking with you.