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Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a system of therapy originally developed by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington, to treat people with severe emotional swings and difficulty managing intimacy within relationships. Open Avenue often incorporates DBT techniques in the therapy process.

Four Core DBT Modules –
1) Mindfulness, 2) Distress Tolerance, 3) Emotion Regulation, and 4) Interpersonal Effectiveness

DBT – Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the core concepts behind all elements of DBT. It is considered a foundation for the other skills taught in DBT, because it helps individuals accept and tolerate the powerful emotions they may feel when challenging their habits or exposing themselves to upsetting situations.

The concept of mindfulness and the meditative exercises used to teach it are derived from traditional Buddhist practice, though the version taught in DBT does not involve any religious or metaphysical concepts.

Within DBT it is the capacity to pay attention, non-judgmentally, to the present moment; about living in the moment, experiencing one’s emotions and senses fully, yet with perspective.

DBT – Distress Tolerance

Many current approaches to mental health treatment focus on changing distressing events and circumstances. They have paid little attention to accepting, finding meaning for, and tolerating distress. This task has generally been tackled by psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, gestalt, or narrative therapies, along with religious and spiritual communities and leaders. Dialectical behavior therapy emphasizes learning to bear pain skillfully.
Distress tolerance skills constitute a natural development from DBT mindfulness skills. They have to do with the ability to accept, in a non-evaluative and nonjudgmental fashion, both oneself and the current situation. Since this is a nonjudgmental stance, this means that it is not one of approval or resignation.

The goal is to become capable of calmly recognizing negative situations and their impact, rather than becoming overwhelmed or hiding from them. This allows individuals to make wise decisions about whether and how to take action, rather than falling into the intense, desperate, and often destructive emotional reactions that are part of borderline personality disorder.

Emotion Regulation

Individuals with borderline personality disorder and suicidal individuals are frequently emotionally intense and labile. They can be angry, intensely frustrated, depressed, or anxious. This suggests that these clients might benefit from help in learning to regulate their emotions.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal response patterns taught in DBT skills training are very similar to those taught in many assertiveness and interpersonal problem-solving classes. They include effective strategies for asking for what one needs, saying no, and coping with interpersonal conflict.

Individuals with borderline personality disorder frequently possess good interpersonal skills in a general sense. The problems arise in the application of these skills to specific situations. An individual may be able to describe effective behavioral sequences when discussing another person encountering a problematic situation, but may be completely incapable of generating or carrying out a similar behavioral sequence when analyzing his or her own situation.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Tools

Diary Cards
Specially formatted cards for tracking Therapy interfering behaviors that distract or hinder a patient’s progress.

Chain Analysis
Chain analysis is a form of functional analysis of behavior but with increased focus on sequential events that form the behavior chain. It has strong roots in behavioral psychology in particular applied behavior analysis concept of chaining. A growing body of research supports the use of behavior chain analysis with multiple populations.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy at Open Avenue

At Open Avenue we incorporate many DBT techniques into the treatment process. For example, Mindfulness techniques are often helpful in managing drug and alcohol cravings, changing depressive thoughts, and reducing anxiety and we often use mindfulness exercises during sessions and encourage clients to practice them on their own.