man receiving dialectic therapy

How Dialectic Behavioral Therapy Became So Effective

Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is one of the many types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that can help people who are living with mental illness. Typically, DBT involves one-on-one talk therapy sessions with a trained therapist. However, some patients also benefit from group sessions.

Although DBT is primarily a treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), that is not the only disorder for which it is useful. Understanding the history of this type of therapy and the fundamental tenants of DBT can help you decide if this type of therapy may be right for you.

The Invention of DBT

Doctor Aaron Beck was a renowned mental health professional in the 1960s who tested psychoanalytical practices on people with depression. While he fully expected these methods to work well for patients with depression, his studies found that psychoanalysis did not improve symptoms in many patients.

With this knowledge, Doctor Beck set out to develop a new type of talk therapy, which eventually became CBT. The intent behind CBT is to stop and/or reverse “automatic negative thoughts,” which Doctor Beck theorized were the cause of many depression symptoms. About 20 years later, Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP went through a similar process when she noticed that CBT did not adequately treat people with BPD.

Linehan and her colleagues combined the theories in CBT with the philosophical practice of dialectics to create DBT. In dialectics, philosophers theorize that all things are made up of two opposing sides and that change occurs when one side gains power. Similarly, DBT counselors aim to find an equilibrium between two opposing sides: a client’s need to accept themselves and desire to change.

Almost immediately, it became clear that DBT is an effective treatment for people with BPD. Today, it is one of the standard courses of treatment for such patients. Professionals have also found ways to use DBT for other mental health disorders, including substance abuse and disordered eating.

DBT’s Core Strategies

Counselors personalize DBT to each individual depending on their needs and condition. However, DBT rests on several fundamental strategies that make it an effective treatment:

  • Decrease Problematic Patterns: DBT counselors help patients identify their most problematic behavioral patterns and what makes them happen. Together, they find ways to reduce the occurrences of these behaviors.
  • Highlight Positive Attributes: Because DBT works with opposing sides, patients should not only focus on problematic behaviors. Counselors help clients identify their positive attributes and find ways to let those shine through.
  • Accept and Change the Self: In keeping with dialectic philosophy, people in DBT therapy should both accept who they are and work to change themselves. This includes accepting their pasts, circumstances, and emotions while working toward a healthier future.
  • Consistent Environment: The therapist is not the only person who should practice DBT strategies with the patient. Everyone in the patient’s care team–including doctors and loved ones–should contribute as well. This gives the client a structured and stable environment.
  • Universal Lessons: DBT does not seek to help people in just one area of their lives. Instead, clients learn to apply coping strategies at home, work, social events, and any setting.

Starting DBT in Florida

DBT can be an effective method of treatment for patients with many types of disorders, including depression, BPD, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorder. However, it may not be right for all patients. Sometimes, counselors use a combination of DBT and other CBT strategies to help clients.

If you think that DBT could help, contact one of our Florida therapy clinics today. We can get you in to see a licensed, compassionate professional who can assess your needs.