Change is hard and it takes time. It requires a good deal of knowledge and a lot of patience. We may have to strengthen the skills we already have and learn some new strategies too. Then there is the matter of practicing all of those coping behaviors until we are sufficiently experienced to implement that desired change!
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is well-suited for helping children, teens and adults expand their ability to make positive change happen in their lives. Developed by Marsha Linehan PhD, DBT is an evidence-based treatment that was originally developed to treat people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Integrating solid Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Mindfulness, research now shows that DBT is also an effective treatment for a wide range of other dilemmas. In my practice, I utilize that research to treat depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance dependence and eating disorders. Expanding beyond the treatment of emotional disorders, DBT skills are also widely taught in both healthcare and workplace settings as well as in schools as a method of improving morale and emotional well-being. For information about the science behind DBT’s effectiveness, check out https://behavioraltech.org/research/ on Marsha’s website.
I am intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. We begin treatment with the question “What has to change in order for your life to be more satisfying?” Clients are taught, step by step, how to make that change happen. Throughout the process we continually remind ourselves that, as humans, we are all doing the best that we can at the moment. We balance this with the truth that if we want to do better, we will have to try a bit harder.
DBT is an intensive, compassionate treatment that combines weekly individual therapy, group skills training and phone consultation between sessions. Treatment begins with strengthening motivation and eliciting a commitment to change. Problem behaviors are identified and treated consistently until safety is achieved. Emphasis is also placed on decreasing behaviors that interfere with treatment or significantly diminish one’s quality of life. Once these goals are reached, work proceeds toward resolving past traumas and reaching goals related to career and relationships. Ultimately, the goal of DBT is for each of us to develop a sense of inner freedom and the capacity to experience sustained joy.
This treatment is particularly well-suited for people who have the capacity to experience full, rich emotions but have, for some reason, not yet learned the strategies needed to get these emotions to work for them rather than against them. Naturally, we don’t want to feel emotional pain. But without the ability to tolerate pain gracefully, we may find ourselves relying on a variety of impulsive behaviors that reduce pain temporarily but result in long-term difficulties.
I have included several DBT strategies for you to sample. You are welcome to explore the use of Lovingkindness as well as a method of managing stress known as Observing the Breath. There is also an example of Guided Imagery, a strategy that can improve the experience of the present moment.
I hope you enjoy them. Please contact me if you want to learn more about how this dynamic treatment can help you achieve a sense of safety, self-respect, and inner freedom.