DBT as many know was developed by Dr. Linehan while she was working with women who were hospitalized after trying to commit suicide or tried to do serious harm to themselves. Dr. Linehan a health professional who cared deeply about giving her patients more effective treatments first started with CBT. She used this therapy to try and help people change their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in order to be able to reduce their anxiety.
CBT Considered “Gold Standard”
Even though CBT has been considered the “gold standard” for treating anxiety, Dr. Linehan discovered that CBT simply wasn’t working with the clients she was working with. The emphasis on changing behaviors and thoughts just didn’t seem to be enough support for her clients when it came to accepting where they were in the present. It seemed the techniques of CBT alone just were much too invalidating to her patients. Eventually, she decided that she needed something different for her patients, some sort of method that would acknowledge along with support the truth that her patients’ experiences were based on.
This is where her idea for DBT came into play. DBT is a kind of CBT, however, it’s different in the fact that it has more emphasis on the mindful and dialectical style of thinking. Instead of treating symptoms as issues or problems to be solved, DBT puts equal emphasis on the acceptance of their experiences.
Role of Dialectical Thinking in Therapy
The focus of DBT is dialectical thinking. The term dialectics points to a philosophical idea where there are two truths or ideas. They may seem to be opposed to each other but can exist at the exact same time. For instance, if someone in therapy may need the motivation to change as well as acceptance of where they might be in the moment. This means that they may need to be able to recognize that things are just as they should be while at the same time knowing they also need to do better and need to try much harder to achieve a positive change in their life.
How DBT Helps With Anxiety
Our emotions do serve very important functions in our daily lives. The main emotions that are linked with anxiety, like fear, can sometimes make all the sense in the world. Such as when there is a threat to our lives, overall well-being, and our health. This fear can motivate us to react in a way that will protect us from danger. However, fear can also appear when there really is no reason for it and at a time when it isn’t productive or helpful. This can be difficult to handle for some and quite often difficult to manage. This then can lead to distress and anxiety.
DBT can help people work through the process of both cognitive and emotional skills and then learning how to apply those skills to a patients life. Most often, DBT will tackle difficult emotions and it can help patients to improve their ability to regulate their emotions along with controlling them, how to experience them as well as expressing them.
DBT Includes Distress Tolerance & Mindfulness Skills
When clients attend DBT group sessions, they will learn important skills like distress tolerance and mindfulness techniques. These techniques will help them to be able to accept what’s happening in the present willingly and not fighting the reality of it. Some of the techniques include things as simple as counting to 10, different types of breathing exercises, and more. These exercises encourage clients to choose acceptance of what’s happening around them in the present moment.
The skills of emotion regulation that is taught through DBT can include describing and observing their emotions. It also gives them a systematic toolkit that will help them to alter emotions that clients want to be able to change. The tools can include acting the opposite of what their emotions are urging them to do, check the facts of the situation, along with problem-solving in order to change the event that might be urging a certain emotional reaction.
The main goal of DBT is for a person to be able to change and influence their emotions. DBT teaches clients the importance of also learning to know and understand where their emotions actually coming from and why they come to the surface. This acknowledging and understanding step in DBT is one of the main things that actually separates this therapy from standard CBT. DBT supports more non-judgmental and mindful observation along with a description of their emotional experiences. Because of this difference, DBT tends to be more effective along a wider range of mental health issues, which includes anxiety issues.
Use of DBT for Developing Emotional Skills & Alleviating Anxiety
DBT is a therapy that consists of several different parts that include individual one on one therapy with a therapist, group meetings for skills training, skills coaching that is often done over the phone, and then the therapist’s participation on a consultation team for their patients. All of these different parts all work together in order to ensure that they offer their patients all the skills they will need to help them feel in more control and in charge of their lives.
If a person is living with an anxiety disorder many don’t feel in control but through DBT there is hope that they’ll be able to regain that control. DBT can help a person feel more valuable and validated. The skills that can be learned help patients to accept the present for what it is and allows them to find more meaning and joy in their lives and to have healthier relationships in life.
The best thing about using DBT is that the skills that are learned can be very helpful and useful for anyone, even if they aren’t suffering from anxiety. The skills taught by DBT are great for those who are doing well in life. It is a type of therapy that teaches and offers healthier life skills that will easily remain with you for many years.