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Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in the late 1980s as a means to help better treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

It is an evidence-based psychotherapy that is based on principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) but places greater emphasis on the psychosocial aspect of treatment. It combines standard CBT techniques for emotional regulation and reality-testing with concepts derived from Buddhist meditative practice such as awareness, mindfulness, and attentiveness to current situations and emotional experiences to encourage acceptance. 

Dialectical behavior therapy is conducted in three different therapeutic settings, each with distinct goals. DBT includes weekly individual therapy sessions, weekly DBT group skills training sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. The one-on-one therapy sessions offer an individual the opportunity to go over any challenging situations that had arisen during the previous week as well as provide a space for the individual to review the lessons learned in the group skills sessions. The weekly DBT group skills training sessions are used to teach and help facilitate fostering skills in four core areas also referred to as the four modules which are: core mindfulness (focusing skills), distress tolerance (crisis survival skills), emotional regulation (de-escalation skills), and interpersonal effectiveness (social/ relationship skills). Phone coaching provides an individual with twenty-four-hour access to support between sessions, should a crisis arise. The entire DBT program takes about six months to complete, as six weeks are allocated to each of the four modules. 

Who Could Benefit?

Dialectical behavior therapy can help individuals that have a difficult time modulating strong emotions and/ or those that are emotionally vulnerable. Psychology Today explains that the “goal of DBT is to transform negative thinking patterns and destructive behaviors into positive outcomes.” The exact treatment plan developed for an individual struggling with a mental health disorder will depend on his or her specific needs. DBT remains the gold standard type of psychotherapy used for treating individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder who have thoughts of suicide and self-harm and has also been noted as a potentially successful treatment option for other mental health conditions. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) indicate that DBT may be an effective treatment for:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Research has concluded that DBT can be effective regardless of a person’s gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and ethnicity/ race. DBT focuses on finding a balance in opposing forces. DBT places significant emphasis on learning how to accept and validate uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, and/ or behaviors, instead of exerting energy on trying to push away, ignore, and/ or change discomfort. DBT empowers a client to learn applicable social and emotional skills, healthy coping mechanisms, and use mindfulness techniques to enable a client to effectively cope with stress, live in the moment, regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others. 

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all-consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At {Upwell Advisors}, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

Feel free to reach to contact us anytime via email at sean@upwelladvisors.com. We look forward to supporting you on your journey.

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