What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
DBT is a type of cognitive behavior therapy that focuses on learning coping skills to manage distress, regulate emotions, improve relationships, and increase awareness of patterns in behaviors and symptoms to create more effective, lasting change. In DBT, we focus on the here and now, and you learn how to implement skills to make actual change in your day to day life.
We do this in four main ways:
- Skills Training: Learn skills to help you manage your distress in the moment, including suicidal thoughts and self-harm thoughts and actions. You’ll also learn skills for keeping your moods more stable and calm over time, as well as improving your relationships. DBT also involves the practice of mindfulness, or learning how to train your mind so you can be more in control of your thoughts and behaviors.
- Diary Card: You’ll use a tool called a diary card to track your symptoms, emotions, stressors, and skill use on a daily basis so we can keep you accountable and help you stay focused on your goals. You’ll also track safety concerns and any unhelpful urges or behaviors, which may include things like self-harm, suicidal thoughts, alcohol or substance use, and other addictive behaviors.
- Weekly Homework: You leave therapy each week with specific homework assignments and skills to practice, so you know exactly what to do. There is no judgment in DBT, only problem-solving—so if you’re having trouble completing your homework, we’ll figure out what’s getting in the way and create a plan for that, too.
- Dialectics: One of the foundational philosophies in DBT is taking a dialectical approach to understanding you and your problems, or knowing that there are two sides to every coin. We understand that you are doing the best you can right now, and we also understand that you want to do better. Accepting where you are is an important first step in changing things, yet it is not the final step—hard work is also necessary. Only you can actually make change in your life, but you can’t do it alone. (Notice the seeming paradox in each of these statements?)