DBT is a skill-building therapeutic approach developed for people who have difficulties regulating their emotions and behaviours, and engage in behaviours that disrupt their lives.
It was originally developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder and complex individuals who have chronic suicidal thinking and engage in high-risk behaviours. However, today we know that DBT has proven to be effective for a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders, and any issues that involve significant emotion coping difficulties.
DBT is a suitable treatment approach for the following problem areas:
- Emotional dysregulation – intense, chaotic, unstable or over-controlled emotions and high emotional sensitivity
- Chaotic, unstable and conflictual interpersonal relationships
- Impulse control problems
- Depression and anxiety
- Destructive behavior patterns
- Self-harm, such as cutting
- Suicidal ideation, urges, and attempts
- Issues related to trauma
- Self-esteem issues
- Emptiness and undefined sense of self
- Substance abuse
- Disordered eating
- Difficult-to-change behaviours
DBT is a powerful, behaviour-focused modality that aims to teach clients practical coping skills to address their specific problem areas. DBT combines traditional CBT with techniques such as mindfulness and acceptance, which are often associated with newer or “third wave” behavioural strategies. Thus DBT focuses on teaching people skills for change, as well as these extra techniques that teach people how to radically accept unchangeable problems and how to become effective at riding out and letting go of painful emotions and destructive urges.
DBT skills training targets four skill sets, including mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness.
Mindfulness skills: Help people learn how to accept and sit with difficult thoughts and feelings without needing to react or struggle. Mindfulness increases clarity and awareness of ourselves, reduces emotional reactivity, and enriches our day-to-day life experience.
Distress Tolerance skills: Help people learn how to tolerate difficult situations skillfully, get through emotional crises without making things worse, and how to develop more emotional resilience.
Emotion Regulation skills: Help people learn how to manage and change emotions that you want to change and how to increase your experience of positive emotions.
Interpersonal Effectiveness skills: Help people learn how to increase effectiveness in dealing with other people and relationships, and how to build more self-respect. These skills will improve assertiveness, boundary setting, your ability to express your needs, and help you develop a more positive relationship with yourself.