What Is DBT Therapy For Borderline Personality Disorder?
DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is a cognitive behavioral therapy that has been widely proven effective for treating borderline personality disorder (BPD). It may also be used to address other mental health issues like anxiety and eating disorders.
Established in the 1970s by Marsha Linehan, a suicide researcher at that time, DBT is an adaptation of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tailored for people who experience intense emotions. Combining strategies from CBT and humanism with strong zen influences makes DBT an exceptional treatment option.
DBT stands out from other therapies due to its emphasis on emotion regulation and dialectical philosophy. This allows patients to identify their emotions without judgment, helping them avoid situations that cause strong emotions or responding in ways that help manage them effectively.
Another key characteristic of DBT is its emphasis on skill training. It assumes that those suffering from BPD lack or need to develop certain essential abilities for their wellbeing, such as emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and mindfulness.
This is accomplished through a series of weekly sessions in which individuals practice specific skills related to these four areas. These skills are taught by a DBT therapist in a group setting, and practicing these abilities gives patients more self-assured and equipped to manage their emotions better.
The purpose of skills training sessions is to equip clients with the ability to use these strategies in order to avoid or minimize relapses into problematic behaviors such as self-harming and suicide attempts. Typically, these sessions include didactics, active practice of new abilities, discussion of strategies, and homework assignments so patients can continue practicing these new abilities outside the session.
Additionally, the therapist is available for consultation between sessions to offer extra support and encouragement. This encouragement can be especially useful when patients find it challenging to apply their new skills in everyday life.
These skills are drawn from research in social psychology, spiritual teachings, or other evidence-based treatments that address particular symptoms or problem behaviors. They can be divided into change skills (emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness) and acceptance skills (mindfulness and distress tolerance).
DBT is a multidisciplinary treatment, with each therapist providing specialized skills-training for their patients. Therapists are taught specific DBT therapeutic principles and encouraged to maintain an accepting attitude toward patients. They are monitored weekly by a team who provide motivation, advice, and feedback on how best to implement DBT with patients.
The team is also designed to offer support and encouragement for therapists when they face difficult circumstances in their work, such as dealing with suicidal patients or dealing with multiple suicide attempts by clients. According to one study, higher scores on the team climate inventory were linked with greater DBT implementation in clinics.
DBT also serves a fifth function by developing and maintaining the capacities and motivation of therapists, especially those working with patients diagnosed with BPD. Since BPD patients often exhibit challenging behaviors that tax their coping resources, competencies, and resolve, maintaining these capabilities is key for successful therapy outcomes for these individuals.