I need “DBT”…What is it and why do I need it?
Most often people get referred to a DBT therapist or group because they and/or their therapist have tried everything else and nothing has worked.
Original use of DBT
DBT is a set of coping skills that were originally developed to manage Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms. Typically, the primary targeted behaviors are self harm, chronic suicidal ideation/attempts, and a chaotic lifestyle. Since DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) was developed a lot of research has been done to see how effective it can be in other situations including: eating disorders, chemical dependency, and marital therapy. The research is positive across all spectrums, and this is why I use it as my therapeutic frame. You don’t have to be diagnosed with Borderline Personality to benefit from DBT.
DBT is a set of 18 different coping skills that are lumped into four categories. Core Mindfulness, in which you learn what to do to be mindful and how to be mindful. Interpersonal Effectiveness, how to be assertive to get your needs met depending on the context. Emotion Regulation, managing your emotions on a day to day basis and Distress Tolerance, managing a crisis without making it worse. DBT is more than the coping skills, it is a way of living. I often tell people that once you commit yourself to the skills, you will be learning skills that most people learned in adolescence- for some reason, you probably didn’t and there is no judgement in that. It is just time for change!
Marsha Linehan PhD is the author of DBT. She has structured DBT into several key components: Individual therapy, Group therapy, Phone Coaching, and Therapist Consultation Team. To be considered ‘intensively’ trained in DBT, the therapist needs to attend two week long training sessions, approximately six months apart. Ideally, if you are in a DBT group, you will also be seeing a DBT intensively trained therapist. The group is structured more as a class, minimal emoting is done- the application of the skills is left to the individual therapist.
I was trained roughly 15 years ago and have watched many lives be transformed through the use of the skills. I feel the skills are fundamental to daily living for everyone, so that is the primary reason they are the basis of my therapy. For more information about DBT, please visit Dr. Linehan’s website.