5 Things to Know About Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Since its development in the 1980s, dialectical behavioral therapy has been widely employed in the treatment of borderline personality disorder. This devastating condition deeply affects the lives of those who are afflicted with it, as well as those of their family, friends and coworkers. Recently, the success of DBT in this area has led to its being applied to other hard-to-treat psychological ailments, with promising results. It represents a growing field, with lots of room for new, innovative developments and professional advancement.

Here are five things you ought to know, if you’re considering a career as a dialectical behavioral therapist.

No Two Treatments Are Identical

The layperson might not recognize the treatment of two different patients receiving dialectical behavior therapy as being representative of the same basic idea. This is because the therapy is developed in correlation with an individual patient’s needs, personality, and background. Even within the scope of the same behavioral disorder, there are different triggering factors and stressful situations at play, which different people react to in different ways: the goal of fostering a healthy sense of self requires a deeply personal approach.

DBT Builds on Healthy Behavioral Patterns

The process of DBT differs from one patient to the next, but the end goal is often similar: the idea is to develop healthy behavioral habits to counteract already well-established negative behaviors, reducing and ultimately replacing negative patterns. For example, many people with borderline personality disorder are deeply intolerant of individuals who are markedly different from them, including people with similar disorders. They may also lack assertiveness, which can manifest in a variety of ways. A person who lacks assertiveness may become sullen and withdrawn, or they may attempt to engage in social behavior — only to lash out defensively when they feel threatened. Dialectical behavior therapy works to replace these patterns with healthier alternatives, through techniques such as role-playing and confidence exercises.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Focuses on the Psychosocial

The theory behind dialectical behavioral therapy is that borderline personality disorder is based on the rapid escalation of emotional arousal, in response to certain situations which most people are able to handle more constructively. As a result, people who suffer from BPD have the tendency to react in ways that strike family members and associates as extreme, even irrational. They see the world as a set of stark opposites, and have often faced a lifetime of emotional invalidation. DBT works by building a healthy sense of self: it focuses on a person’s strengths, and works by establishing constructive behaviors to handle the kind of situation that most people take for granted.

DBT Treats the Root of Addictive Tendencies

Modern views on addiction are beginning to receive widespread acceptance — not only socially, but throughout the medical and psychiatric communities. Addiction’s chemical component is far exceeded by its psychiatric element — the need for satisfaction, fulfillment, and pleasure, in the face of circumstances which would otherwise rob a person of such experiences. DBT is being employed, with increasing success, in the treatment of addictive behavior, by helping those who suffer from addiction to identify and individually address the sources of their negative emotions.

Collaborative Social Support is Important

By working together, therapists and patients can help to build the same kind of constructive, beneficial relationship that the patient is trying to work on in their daily life. The therapeutic process itself is more than an example: it involves actual, visible progress, which can help contribute to a borderline personality disorder patient’s developing sense of emotional well-being.

For More Information

Thanks to its success in treating a variety of difficult psychological disorders, the amount of information available about DBT is growing. There are a variety of suggestions available for parents of children showing certain symptoms, and a wealth of information geared towards therapists and family members on the question of whether or not DBT is right for a particular individual.

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