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What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that is used to treat people with a wide variety of difficulties including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other problems in living. Originally developed in the 1980s by psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan to help people with chronic suicidal and self-injurious thinking and urges, this approach is now widely used to create real and lasting changes for clients with many different types of mental and chemical health problems.

(DBT) provides clients with new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. It helps individuals properly manage and decrease the severity of the symptoms they experience throughout their everyday life to promote safe and healthy mental states including reducing self-destructive urges such as self-harming, drug use, and anger outbursts.

What sets DBT apart is its focus on the management of symptoms rather than finding a “cure” for them. DBT has four core principles or skills sets that assist clients to tolerate and manage mental health.

Mindfulness: focuses on improving an individual's ability to accept and be present in the current moment.

Distress tolerance: is geared toward increasing a person’s tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it.

Emotion Regulation: covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life.

Interpersonal effectiveness: consists of techniques that allow a person to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships.

The main goal of DBT is to help individuals deal with distress and emotions in such a way that they can still maintain a functional, fulfilling life. When encountering hardships in life, clients can use the skill sets learned through the four core modules of this treatment method to accept and manage distress in a healthy, constructive way. This has a positive effect on a client’s wellbeing, but also impacts their relationships in a positive way.

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