By: Stacy Blankenship, MSW, LCSW
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) was developed to assist people living with chronic suicidal thinking by Marsha Linehan in the late 1980’s as an updated version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). During her research with DBT in clinical settings, Linehan discovered that she could significantly improve the prognosis of individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. It has now become the prescribed intervention for people struggling with both conditions.
However, DBT has been proven helpful to many individuals with a broad range of symptoms, including medication resistant depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, substance use and eating disorders. So why is this therapy so helpful to so many and how can it treat such a wide range of symptoms?
There is research about the efficacy and effectiveness of DBT, but here I would like to talk about the reasons that I believe DBT works so well from the viewpoint of someone that not only teaches DBT skills but uses them in her own life.
- DBT has taught me to be compassionate to myself as well as others. The PLEASE skills teach us that we must take care of ourselves if we want to help others. Therapists often forget that we should be wholly and entirely well if we are working to support others in being their best selves. It also reminds me that everyone is doing the best they can with the skills and knowledge they have, so be kind to others, always.
- DBT has taught me to chill out and roll with the flow. Through the skill of Radical Acceptance, I know that I must accept things for the way they are, not the way that I want them to be. We often get caught up in the disappointment about the “should’ve, could’ve and would’ve” of life. We ruminate on our disappointment when events and people do not behave as we expected. With Radical Acceptance, I can accept these things for what they are and move towards changing more of what I can in my life.
- DBT helps me to be mindful of the good and joyous moments, but also to pay attention to the unlikable feelings. DBT teaches that there are no such things as negative or positive emotions, only ones we do not like and ones we do. But all emotions have a purpose, therefore; if they have a necessity, then they must be telling me something. I have learned that with mindfulness, I can experience these emotions with more clarity in their meaning and change them when needed.
There is much more I could contribute to this positive discussion on DBT, but for now, this gives you a little insight into the popularity of this therapy. For more information on DBT and the studies I referenced visit behavioraltech.org.
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