Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was first developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., in the 1970s as a means of treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in women. However, as DBT proved its effectiveness, it was incorporated into treatment for individuals struggling with numerous psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and eating disorders.
Today, Dialectical Behavior Therapy is considered to be one of the most clinically proven methods of therapy, as it is backed by a great deal of evidence-based research. The most noticeable success of DBT is that this form of therapy helps you develop strong coping skills devised to help bring about continual recovery from the psychological troubles that are affecting you.
How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Works
Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a process of different stages, all of which are developed to help encourage a willingness to get better and obtain healthy coping skills. The DBT process is broken down into four different stages:
- Stage one: Stage one of DBT serves as the foundation on which you will build your success. During this first stage, you will begin learning how to control your behaviors, including those behaviors that prevent you from getting the help you need and/or cause you to harm yourself physically or emotionally. You will also work with a therapist to identify additional disorders that might be occurring simultaneously with your primary disorder.
- Stage two: Rather than bottling up emotional responses, stage two of DBT helps you learn the power of expression. By talking about your emotions, you can learn how to cope with your underlying issues rather than jeopardize your physical and/or psychological health. Here, you will work with your therapist to acknowledge and work through any traumatic experiences and/or emotional struggles that have prevented you from overcoming obstacles in the past.
- Stage three: By combining the skills developed in the first two stages of DBT, you will use stage three to learn how to solve your problems successfully, all while striving to maintain proper functioning in your life.
- Stage four: To wrap up the process of DBT, therapists work with you in stage four to help you reconnect to other individuals in your lives. By working on communication skills and sorting through potential attachment/detachment issues, you can begin learning how to foster positive relationships during this final stage of therapy.
Throughout these stages, you will focus on gaining skills in the areas of emotional regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Comprehensive Dialectical Behavior Therapy is practiced in DBT skills groups, individual DBT therapy sessions, and phone coaching with a DBT therapist. You will use diary cards and chain analysis to track your behaviors and find ways to use the DBT skills you’ve learned.
As part of comprehensive DBT, your treatment team has regular consultation team meetings to help them ensure they are providing you the best treatment possible.
What Dialectical Behavior Therapy Treats
For individuals struggling with serious psychological issues, it can be increasingly difficult to manage them without engaging in some form of therapy. In addition to treating Borderline Personality Disorder, Dialectical Behavior Therapy also helps treat the following disorders:
- Mood disorders, including depression
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
- Substance abuse
- Other personality disorders, such as Dependent Personality Disorder
With many of the above disorders come numerous behavioral problems, all of which DBT is designed to help treat. Through the many steps of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, individuals dealing with these disorders can address issues such as emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, self-harmful tendencies, self-esteem issues, risky behaviors, and suicidality.
Evidence Behind Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical Behavior Therapy is known as an evidence-based treatment, meaning that there has been a large amount of research done on its effectiveness in treating numerous psychological disorders.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) provided funding for two of the very first studies conducted that proved DBT to be an effective form of treatment for Borderline Personality disorder and co-occurring substance abuse problems. The results of these two reputably funded studies proved that DBT helps reduce hospitalization in individuals struggling with psychological issues and addiction, as well as helps them integrate into social settings with greater ease.
Additional studies on Dialectical Behavior Therapy and its effectiveness on Borderline Personality Disorder highlighted the following results:
- DBT reduces emotional distress, such as depression, anger, suicidal thoughts, and self-esteem issues
- DBT reduces the likelihood of an individual engaging in self-harmful practices
- DBT helps keep individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder tuned into treatment, meaning that very few leave treatment
- DBT helps reduce symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as numerous other psychological disorders
In addition to the many studies conducted on DBT and Borderline Personality Disorder, studies have also been conducted on how well DBT helps treat additional psychological issues. The results of these studies have concluded the following:
- DBT reduces binging and purging behaviors in individuals with eating disorders
- DBT decreases drug use in individuals struggling with opiate addiction
- DBT reduces symptoms of depression
- DBT helps develop stronger coping skills
These studies, plus many more that have been conducted (and continue to be conducted), have proven that Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a highly effective form of treatment for people battling a variety of mental health disorders.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy at Clearview Women’s Center
Clearview Women’s Center is one of the few treatment centers in the country that offers comprehensive Dialectical Behavior Therapy throughout all levels of care. That means you can participate in individual DBT sessions, DBT skills groups, and coaching whether you are in residential, day, or outpatient treatment.
DBT is the core of our treatment program, and staff at all of our treatment programs have been trained in DBT to help you get support and practice your DBT skills while you’re in treatment. Our therapists are extensively trained in DBT therapy by Behavioral Tech, Marsha Linehan’s training organization, or another DBT institution, to provide you with the skills needed to have a successful recovery.