Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was created specifically for the female patient struggling with multiple mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors, substance use disorders, and/or borderline personality disorder. Designed by Marsha Linehan, the goal of the assembled intervention strategies that make up the treatment protocol is to heavily target the suicide behaviors of “multi-problematic” female patients, as stated in a report published in the journal Psychiatry.

Dialectical behavior therapy has been proven to be effective in the treatment of both men and women for disorders including any combination of:

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Substance abuse and addiction disorders
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Depression

Benefits of DBT

What makes dialectical behavioral therapy different from other behavioral intervention therapies? For the patient, the primary difference is in the focus on the patient’s emotions as well as learning self-acceptance and mindfulness skills that will aid them in being more forgiving of themselves. Especially in the treatment of co-occurring disorders in women, DBT was hugely effective in treating patients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a disorder notoriously difficult to treat, and patients who struggled with drug and alcohol abuse or addiction issues.

5 Functions of DBT

Dialectical behavioral therapy is not a single therapy but a collection of therapies that includes one-on-one therapy, peer group therapy, and consultations with a therapeutic team whose goal it is to continually check in, define, and update the patient’s treatment program according to his or her progress.

Part of what makes DBT therapy unique is five specific functions, including:

  • Increasing the patient’s repertoire of life skills. Especially in the cases of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts and self-harm, increasing the patient’s ability to manage life situations can decrease the threat of relapse in recovery as well as improve self-esteem and confidence levels, which in turn can decrease cravings.
  • Helping the patient put the principles learned in therapy into practice in daily life. Problem-solving the real-life issues that come up for patients as they arise and actively applying the principles learned in therapy not only decreases the current level of stress but helps them to learn how to apply the principles on their own later.
  • Improving a patient’s motivation to change negative behaviors. Sometimes the patient doesn’t want to change or doesn’t feel that their behaviors are the problem. In these cases, DBT can help them to recognize their role in their problems – as well as their role in the solutions.
  • Maintaining therapist’s motivation and integrity despite erratic patient behavior. It’s not easy to remain upbeat and innovative as a therapist when a patient displays repeated setbacks (e.g., drug relapse, self-harming behaviors, etc). The therapist’s ability to gain energy from the rewarding breakthroughs experienced by the patient in treatment is part of the function of DBT and what makes it successful.
  • Maintaining a structured therapy that does not enable maladaptive behaviors and instead reinforces positive behaviors. It’s important to ensure that the positive choices made by the patient are reinforced as much as possible and maladaptive behaviors are identified and addressed. When a negative choice is reported, patients may misread a therapist’s decision to overlook the behavior and its consequences as positive reinforcement.

Dialectical behavioral therapy can be a game changer in the treatment of a number of disorders that are difficult to treat, especially in patients who struggle with multiple issues simultaneously. Learn more about the value of integrated care and treatment personalized to the needs of the individual patient when you contact us at Constellation Behavioral Health today.