You may have heard talk of DBT but have absolutely no idea what it stands for, after all psychology loves it’s acronyms. DBT stands for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, a newer therapeutic orientation that shares some similarities to CBT, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but with many substantial differences. Originally developed by Marsha Linehan, DBT was first and foremost meant as an effective method of treatment for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) 1, 3. The scope of usefulness of DBT has expanded, incorporating primarily eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders 1.
Regardless of the populations this treatment was developed for, one thing that has become apparent to me is that everyone could benefit from the skills taught in DBT. Heck, I’m sitting there thinking, “Wow, I don’t even know how to handle these situations…” DBT isn’t just for people with BPD or people that have something “wrong with them”, but rather for anyone and everyone looking to improve their coping and interpersonal skills (S. Forde & K. Williams, personal communication, 2017).
The basic premise of DBT is dialectics, which refers to the philosophical principle of opposite truths 2. This idea posits that an individual can hold opposing viewpoints simultaneously, while looking for truth in both positions; opposite views can exist in one person at the same time 3. This concept can often ring true in individuals struggling with suicidal ideation. It is entirely possible that an individual can both want to die and want to live, while finding truth in both of those contradicting statements 3. These opposing viewpoints lead to tension and conflict, which may be necessary to bring about change 3. Dialectics identify multiple truths inherent in any situation and promote flexible thinking, a nonjudgmental stance, and active application of mindfulness 2.
DBT therapy is comprised of four main modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation 1.