Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): What to Expect

Man sitting on sofa speaking with his therapistMaybe you’ve tried therapy before, but your previous therapist’s approach was not a great fit for your needs. Now, you’re looking up other types of therapy to see if a different perspective might better suit you.

Or perhaps you’ve never pursued therapy. Now, you’re thinking about reaching out to a counselor for the first time. As you’ve looked up therapists, you’ve wanted to learn more about the therapeutic modalities they specialize in.

No matter where you are in your journey to connecting with a therapist, you may have come across the term Dialectical Behavior Therapy, often shortened to DBT. You might be curious about whether or not DBT could help you with your symptoms. Let’s explore the basics of DBT.

Understanding DBT

DBT involves many facets, including reflecting on your thought patterns and behaviors, changing dysfunctional patterns, and learning how to manage emotional dysregulation in a healthy way.

This modality is all about combining two important mindset shifts. First, it’s important for people to accept their current realities. Then, once they’ve reached this place of acceptance, they can work towards changing their lives for the better. While DBT is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which involves questioning negative thought patterns and building new beliefs that better serve you, DBT is aimed at people who are struggling to cope with intense emotional distress and mood swings.

Who Can Benefit from DBT?

People with many mental health conditions can greatly benefit from DBT. In particular, people with borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorders are suitable candidates for DBT. However, this modality can also help those who are struggling with anxiety, depression, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What Skills Can You Learn From DBT?

Through DBT, many people learn life-changing skills that have the potential to improve their mental health drastically. Emotional regulation is a primary focus of DBT. Rather than suppressing your feelings, this is about identifying specific feelings and shifting your responses to intense emotions so that they don’t overpower you.

You will also work on distress tolerance so that you can handle difficult situations without turning to unhealthy or destructive coping mechanisms. In addition, you will practice skills to improve your interpersonal relationships, such as setting reasonable boundaries and asking for help when you need support, rather than trying to make it through challenges entirely on your own.

What Happens in Individual DBT Sessions?

You can participate in DBT through individual or group sessions. In individual therapy sessions, you and your therapist will work on some of the aforementioned skills. These include emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and improving interpersonal relationships.

Additionally, your therapist will help you practice shifting the way you focus your attention. For example, when you’re dwelling on thoughts or sensations that are only worsening your emotional distress, you can get into the habit of focusing on positive thoughts or feelings to reduce that distress.

What Happens in DBT Group Sessions?

One aspect of DBT that differentiates it from many other forms of therapy is the fact that DBT often involves group sessions. However, it’s important to note that DBT group sessions are not group therapy. These are not sessions where you will have to share your personal problems with a group for the sake of mutual healing.

Instead, one therapist will simply work on different skills with several people as a group. These sessions will be centered on four primary skill sets: mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Are you curious about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)? Reach out to our counselors to learn more about this approach or schedule your first session.

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