Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a powerful method backed by science that allows individuals to control painful emotions and build healthy relationships. Together with the precursor Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), these evidence-based modalities are considered the gold standard in emotional management and growth. Dialectic, or “balancing opposites,” refers to the philosophy behind the system.
DBT embraces the only two–seemingly opposing–healthy options in a difficult situation: acceptance and change. In practice, however, it is not baffling–it’s highly effective. DBT is a therapy that was created to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD) but has now been used to treat a variety of other conditions.
DBT can effectively help treat:
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorders
- Mood disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse disorder (SUD)
At SoCal Mental Health, one of our Orange County treatment services offered is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Our clinicians are highly trained and experienced in the application of DBT. The foundation of DBT is learning four vital skills and each is a skill of one of the opposing sides: mindfulness and distress tolerance (acceptance skills) and interpersonal effectiveness and emotional regulation (change skills).
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of everything internal and external to one’s body or mind in the present moment. Backed by the science of neuroplasticity, mindfulness is the cornerstone of many beliefs worldwide. In the case of DBT, mindfulness can be broken into observing and describing.
To observe something is to sense or feel it without trying to describe or put labels on it. One recognizes or notices. The most significant benefit of mindfulness is that it settles consciousness. Eventually, one can see things without getting a constant narrative from a chattering mind.
The skill of describing is the use of words to express what you see. It is a reaction to observation–naming what has been witnessed. Assigning labels to behavioral and environmental occurrences is critical for communication and self-control.
A person records repeated thoughts that produce tension, stress, shortness of breath, or other sensations. People can be aware of how specific ideas make them feel without assigning any value. Instead, simply identify thoughts and feelings as they come and go to understand them better.
An individual’s capacity to control their internal emotional state in reaction to stress-inducing circumstances is referred to as distress tolerance. If a person has a poor distress tolerance, they are more prone to feel overwhelmed by slightly stressful events, perhaps resulting in undesirable mental and behavioral responses. There are a few simple techniques that can be used to manage distress.
Distraction may be a highly efficient technique for increasing distress tolerance and entails employing strategies to divert attention away from distressing sensations. Improving the situation involves using a range of methods to help make the unpleasant situation bearable. Visualizing a peaceful scenario, seeking the silver lining, or taking a mental break to do something enjoyable are all methods to improve the experience.
As a way to cope with the stress, one approach is called Pros and Cons. It includes seeing the possible benefits and drawbacks of accepting or denying the problem. It may help make quick, big-picture decisions.
Self-soothing refers to the process of learning to relax oneself and keep unpleasant emotions under control. To manage distressing circumstances, a person can employ many types of sensory input, such as vision, sound, smell, or touch in order to ground the individual in the present moment.
For success in relationships, one needs to ensure that the people around you can help you achieve your objectives. The aim is to re-energize relationships, establish fulfilling and new ones, and mitigate any harmful connections. Relationships thrive when they achieve balance, and it’s vital to have acceptance with each balance shift.
Interpersonal effectiveness skills are acquired via learning and are not always achieved through natural intuition. Building good connections can be difficult. The inner critic can stop people from making valuable bonds, causing them to miss out on chances for growth and happiness. However, interpersonal skills allow all parties to have their needs met while respecting healthy boundaries.
Emotional modulation is any activity that changes the feeling’s intensity. It doesn’t imply burying your feelings or ignoring them. Instead, it relates to having control over one’s emotions and developing a spectrum of techniques to do so. Emotional control abilities enable a person to influence their feelings and the way that they communicate them.
We come across a great deal of powerful emotional stimuli each day. It’s easy to be triggered by unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Emotional regulation can operate as a filter by keeping a person in the loop about important information inherent in thoughts and emotions and makes a person prioritize it in a way that will not overwhelm them.
How We Can Help
At SoCal Mental Health, we teach these skills using vital components of DBT. The DBT skills training group teaches clients behavioral strategies to improve their capacities. The group component is similar to a class. The instructor teaches clients how to perform the task and then assigns them homework to do in their ordinary routine.
Individual therapy works one-on-one with clients. Through management, they improve clients’ desire to use their skills in everyday life. In typical DBT, each individual has one treatment session per week for roughly an hour, concurrently with the skills group sessions.
Phone coaching focuses on helping clients learn how to handle problems in real-time with the skills they’ve learned. Not always over the phone, it involves dealing with urgent issues as they emerge, in the here and now, testing the newfound skills of DBT. Clients can use their private therapist as a sort of life coach by calling them in between appointments. Residential clients will have greater access to the therapeutic resources and their DBT instructors.