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How DBT Can Help with Your Mental Health?

A woman sits and looks at a friend while holding hands and talking about dbt for mental health concerns

Dialectical behavior therapy, also known as DBT, is designed to help people cope with intense emotions and change unhealthy behaviors. It’s related to another evidence-based style of talk therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on changing thinking patterns to change behavior. Though DBT takes a slightly different approach, it has similar goals of encouraging clients to adopt positive behavioral changes.

Reach out to A Better State today at 781.412.1488 to learn more about DBT for mental health concerns. We can help you develop the skills and strategies to become your best self and find lasting change.

What Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Mean?

Dialectics, the root of “dialectical” in dialectical behavioral therapy, is an idea that says two different concepts can be true at once. For example, you can accept the reality of your current situation and, at the same time, want to take steps to change it. Acceptance and change may seem like opposites, but they can work together.

A DBT-focused therapist shows clients how to accept themselves and their experiences as they work towards changed behaviors. A client recovering from a substance use disorder can accept that they are still tempted to use substances while developing skills that help them handle stress and enjoy life substance-free. This compassionate balance of acceptance and change gives clients the confidence to deal with life obstacles.

DBT for mental health focuses on skills like mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Clients learn to recognize the triggers and sensations that lead to unhealthy behaviors before they become overwhelmed. This helps them manage their emotions in a healthier way so they can live more meaningful lives.

Who Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Best for?

Originally, dialectical behavior therapy for mental health was designed to meet the needs of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (also known as emotional dysregulation disorder). Extreme emotions, mood swings, impulsiveness, and sensitivity to rejection characterize this condition. DBT was also intended for people struggling with suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

However, the principles of DBT can be helpful for many conditions. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have used and expanded DBT principles to help people diagnosed with:

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorders
  • Anxiety

In general, DBT for mental health can help anyone who struggles with unhealthy attempts to control difficult emotions, such as substance use. Since DBT takes work and time, people are most likely to benefit from DBT if they are ready to commit to individual and group therapy sessions and explore options for positive changes.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Mental Health and How It Works

DBT may include individual or group therapy sessions or both. In individual DBT sessions, your therapist focuses on your specific goals for changed behavior. You’ll usually keep a diary or fill out diary cards between sessions. Diaries are used to keep track of your moods, emotions, and urges throughout the day, your behaviors in response to these emotions, and the skills you’ve learned to practice.

Then, you and your therapist will use this information to unpack the causes of your behaviors and decide what you want to do differently in the future. You may pay attention to patterns or “target behaviors” that you engage in frequently and work on techniques to reduce these behaviors if they are harmful.

DBT and Group Skills Training

Another aspect of DBT involves group skills training. Group training is more focused and class-like than a typical group therapy session. You and your fellow group members will learn and practice the four cornerstone skills that DBT teaches:

  • Mindfulness, or being fully aware of the present moment – Mindfulness helps you practice acceptance and avoid worrying about the past or future
  • Distress tolerance or managing upsetting situations and difficult emotions – The goal is to handle stress without resorting to damaging behaviors like self-harm or substance use
  • Interpersonal effectiveness, or communicating successfully with others in relationships – You’ll practice skills like setting boundaries, asking others for what you need, and handling conflict
  • Emotion regulation, or understanding and controlling your emotions – This skill may involve recognizing and naming your emotions, thinking clearly when emotions are intense, and knowing how your emotions affect your actions

DBT has been proven to reduce suicidal ideation and substance use and is associated with reductions in hospital stays and emergency room visits. DBT also has simpler benefits, like helping people function more effectively in social situations. In general, DBT can help anyone who wants to remain more resilient in the face of strong emotions.

Contact A Better State for Mental Health Treatment

We offer DBT as part of our many outpatient treatment options for people with substance use disorders. Clients with co-occurring conditions can benefit from our individualized mental health treatment plans. Our programs range from partial hospitalization, which provides a high level of care five days a week, to more flexible outpatient programs. Learn more about DBT or our treatment programs by contacting us at 781.412.1488.