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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Mental Health Center of San Diego

As a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) focuses treatment on patients that live with the worst types of mental health conditions. Initially implemented to treat patients with suicidal thoughts or who suffered from the most intense symptoms of borderline personality disorder, DBT identifies and changes negative thoughts and emotions to change behavioral patterns. Dialectical behavior therapy addresses mental health conditions that threaten a client’s safety and significantly disrupts personal and professional relationships.

The adaptation of DBT techniques allows clients to live with and ultimately change dangerous behaviors.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

The primary goals of DBT include educating patients on how to live for the present by managing negative thoughts and emotions. Although it is used to treat patients that live with self-destructive behaviors such as eating and substance abuse disorders, dialectical behavior therapy has extended its mental health reach to help patients address the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dialectical represents a term that derives from the psychological idea that combines two opposites in theory: first accepting negative thoughts and emotions and then changing how a client addresses the negative thoughts and emotions. Before a client can change negative behaviors, the client must accept the development of thoughts and emotions that hinders personal and professional growth.

DBT consists of four treatment phases. First, individual therapy concentrates on treatments delivered in a one-on-one setting. Then, a patient participates in group skills training that improves interpersonal communication skills. If a crisis develops between group therapy sessions, a patient undergoes phone coaching to mitigate the impact of negative thoughts and emotions. The last component of treatment involves patients monitoring psychological progress by learning and practicing new skills at home.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Used to Treat?

Initially discovered in the 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan, dialectical behavior therapy took the fundamental psychological principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy to the next level to treat serious mental health conditions such as borderline personality disorder. Dr. Linehan and her colleagues added treatment techniques to address the most serious mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and anorexia nervosa. Patients who live with treatment-resistant mental health disorders like depression can also benefit from implementing DBT techniques.

Dialectical behavior therapy represents the most effective psychological treatment regimen for clients that suffer from the worst types of mental health conditions. It is widely recognized by psychologists and psychiatrists to have a positive mental health impact on clients that possess suicidal thoughts. For patients that suffer from severe depression, dialectical behavior therapy can minimize the impact of the most negative symptoms of the mental health disorder. Many mental health professionals that have earned the credentials to practice dialectical behavior therapy implement the therapy’s techniques to prevent depression from morphing into a life-threatening mental health condition.

What to Expect with Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy has grown into a results-oriented mental health approach that is based on solid evidence. You can expect intensive one-on-one sessions to start the process of addressing negative thoughts and emotions. After several one-on-one sessions, you participate in group therapy sessions that help you improve your interaction skills with patients that suffer from similar mental health symptoms.  Phone therapy involves your therapist providing guidance when you have to address an especially complex mental health issue.

The core mental health philosophy behind dialectical behavior therapy is the development of mindfulness skills, which help you live in the present instead of dwelling on the past. Mindfulness enables you to focus on your thoughts and emotions by using your senses to hone in on what unfolds around you in various social settings. You can expect any DBT techniques to be non-judgmental to promote the growth of personal and professional interaction skills.

One of the most important reasons why psychologists and psychiatrists turn to DBT is to help patients learn how to tolerate distress. The techniques you can expect to learn for distress tolerance include distraction and a focus on improving how you feel at the moment. You can expect to learn how to be more assertive in relationships while maintaining the positive health of the relationships.

The Benefits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

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Getting Started with
Dialectical Behavior Therapy in San Diego

The most effective way to determine whether dialectical behavior therapy is the right mental health treatment option for you involves meeting with a counselor at the Mental Health Center of San Diego. We will provide a thorough mental health evaluation that focuses on your symptoms and medical history to determine if DBT is right for you; to learn more call 858-465-7722.