A few weeks ago, we posted a blog on CBT, a type of treatment that promotes changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to manage and reduce anxiety. Today, we want to take a deeper dive into a branch of CBT called Dialectical Behavior Therapy. DBT skills are important, as they tend to fill in the gaps that CBT may leave behind. Rather than only treating symptoms as problems to be solved, DBT places an equally important emphasis on acceptance of experiences as they are in this moment.
Sure, that sounds great and all. But you may be wondering how DBT can help you with depression and anxiety. Continue reading to learn more!
The History of DBT
Dr. Marsha Linehan was the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The psychologist developed the therapy method through her work with women who had attempted suicide or serious self-harm. She initially treated these women with CBT but noticed it wasn’t fully effective.
CBT puts a huge emphasis on changing thoughts and behavior. And while this is great, that kind of thinking did not help Dr. Linehan’s patients accept themelves as they were. CBT alone did not validate her patients. Dr. Linehan even noticed that her patients were finding their own thoughts and behaviors as “incorrect” when trying to use CBT skills. DBT is one of several acceptance-based behavior therapies (ABBTs).
Dialectical thinking refers to the philosophical stance in which two seemingly opposite truths can coexist. For example, a person in therapy may need both acceptance of where they are in the moment and motivation to change. Meaning it is important for him/her to accept their reality and find validation in their circumstances. And then at the same time find the things in their realities that they wish to change for the positive in the future.
DBT Skills: Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness
DBT skills include tools such as mindfulness and distress tolerance. These techniques aid in the concept of accepting the present moment. DBT skills range and vary in nature. They can include breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises, and even using temperature changing objects! The goal is to let go of past/future worry and bring the mind to the present. Exercises like this encourage us to choose to accept what is happening in the moment.
DBT skills also include emotion regulation techniques. This includes observing and describing emotions. These skills are also accompanied by a “toolkit” to help alter emotions you want to change. These tools include:
- Checking the facts of a situation
- Acting opposite to the action urge of the emotion
- Problem solving to change the event creating a particular emotional reaction
The main goal of DBT is the changing and influence of emotions. However, before you can do that, you have to understand where these emotions are coming from. And explore what makes them arise in the first place. This phase of understanding and acknowledging is one of the main things that differs DBT from CBT. This approach supports mindfulness and creates a judgment free zone. DBT skills allow you to describe and observe the emotional experiences you are feeling without connotation. This is why DBT is effective across a range of mental health problems. These include anxiety and depression disorders, because the skills you learn help you differentiate emotions from facts. Meaning DBT allows you to work with and manage emotions effectively.
DBT Skills Vs. Depression and Anxiety
Emotions act as important checkpoints in our daily lives. They act to tell us information that we may otherwise not receive. Primary emotions such as happiness, fear, and sadness help us make decisions to further protect ourselves. However, there are times that emotions arise, which are unhelpful and unproductive. These emotions can be difficult to cope with and manage. They often lead to anxiety, distress, and depression.
DBT works through a process of learning emotional and cognitive skills. From there, these skills are applied to every day experiences and circumstances. DBT does its best to tackle difficult and distressing emotions. It aims to improve a person’s capacity for emotional regulation. In other words, it helps you with your ability to control the emotions you have, when you have them, how you experience them, and how you express them.
A full comprehensive DBT program consists of several parts. It includes, individual therapy, group therapy consisting of skill learning. In some cases individual sessions with a psychiatrist for diagnosis and medication is also included. These pieces of the mental health puzzle work together to ensure learned DBT skills. All of these skills should be put into practice to help you feel more in control of how you feel and how you cope in your surroundings.
Let Us Help You!
The best part about DBT skills is that they can be useful for anyone. This even includes when you feel you are doing well. DBT teaches healthy life skills that can be used years into the future. If you are interested in DBT, Cristina Panaccione and Associates has two locations in the South Hills. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you learn DBT skills to fight depression and anxiety!