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Dialectical Behavior Therapy


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of treatment developed by the psychologist Marsha Linehan, PhD.  It was originally developed to work with Borderline Personality Disorder.  However, its principles have been expanded for use with a variety of other conditions such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance abuse.  Notably, DBT has been used to help people with suicidal thoughts and/or self-injurious behavior.


One of the core goals of DBT is to help improve a person’s emotional regulation.  In so doing DBT helps people have less intense ups and downs.  This is often done by helping improve a person’s distress tolerance.  Through this the person becomes better able to manage increasing amounts of emotional distress.  Another core concept of DBT is that of radical acceptance.  Radical acceptance helps people become better able to accept a situation and its associated emotions as it is.


Both distress tolerance and radical acceptance can be addressed through the use of mindfulness training.  Mindfulness is the process of becoming aware of and understanding your mental and emotional processes.  It involves observing your thoughts and feelings in a neutral and non-judgmental manner in order to help you develop greater self-understanding.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy also works to help people develop a balance between acceptance and change.  In achieving this balance, the person begins to accept his or her distress (anxiety, depression, etc) while taking intentional steps toward changing the conditions that lead to that distress.


One of the strengths of Dialectical Behavior Therapy is that it directly addresses very painful and upsetting emotions.  It provides specific strategies that people can use when they are feeling upset and thinking about hurting themselves.  Overall, DBT helps develop and improve coping strategies for emotional distress.  While Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a clinical modality of its own, concepts of DBT can be easily incorporated into other modes of therapy.

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