The term DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a therapeutic modality that has gained popularity in recent years. It was initially created to help people who felt their emotions controlled them, and DBT was designed to help them get control of their emotions and develop a life worth living. Currently DBT is widely used to help people in many different treatment settings. DBT’s reputation as an evidence -based therapy refers to the multitude of research supporting successful treatment outcomes. The success seemingly stems from the style of DBT. DBT skills are taught in a hands-on, experiential way, giving participants a practical toolbox of skills to practice and apply in real life. Group members practice and gain a sense of skillfulness in dealing with emotionally overwhelming situations.
One of the first skills taught in a DBT skills group is mindfulness. Mindfulness, which Linehan adapted from Buddhist meditation practices, helps clients build awareness of their thoughts, sensations and emotions. Mindfulness is not about learning how to become a Buddhist or sit quietly like a monk for hours. It’s about paying attention to the present moment, kind of like the antithesis of multi-tasking. And the most important tenent of mindfulness practice is observing our experience non-judgmentally. That’s right no judging! This proves to be a helpful tool for many clients, including those struggling with eating disorders, who are often plagued by self-judgments. Criticism and self-judgment are common mindtraps for many people. Mild self-judgment can limit your life, but more extreme versions can lead to self-harming behaviors. What DBT offers to those who struggle with self-judgments is a practice in awareness which helps to overcome the habit of negative thinking and develop self-compassion and acceptance. Mindfulness practices teach clients how to notice thoughts and emotions without getting swept away by them. They are then better able to make wise choices that are in alignment with their life goals.
Other skills taught in DBT include interpersonal effectiveness skills for achieving healthy relationships, distress tolerance for getting through tough times without making things worse and emotion regulation skills for learning how to master feelings rather than running from them.
DBT is a part of our integrative therapy at Cielo House. A weekly skills group is taught by Kaitlin Geenen, MFT Intern.