Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP. It emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living. DBT skills include skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. Research has shown DBT to be effective in reducing suicidal behavior, non-suicidal self-injury, psychiatric hospitalization, treatment dropout, substance use, anger, and depression and improving social and global functioning.
The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels.
People who are sometimes diagnosed with borderline personality disorder experience extreme swings in their emotions, see the world in black-and-white shades, and seem to always be jumping from one crisis to another. Because few people understand such reactions — most of all their own family and a childhood that emphasized invalidation — they don’t have any methods for coping with these sudden, intense surges of emotion. DBT is a method for teaching skills that will help in this task.
DBT treatment will consist of two parts:
Individual weekly psychotherapy sessions that emphasize problem-solving behavior for the past week’s issues and troubles that arose in the person’s life. Self-injurious and suicidal behaviors take first priority, followed by behaviors that may interfere with the therapy process. Quality of life issues and working toward improving life in general may also be discussed. Individual sessions in DBT also focus on decreasing and dealing with post-traumatic stress responses (from previous trauma in the person’s life) and helping enhance their own self-respect and self-image. During individual therapy sessions, the therapist and client work toward learning and improving many basic social skills.
Weekly group therapy sessions, generally 1 hour a session which is led by a trained DBT therapist. In these weekly group therapy sessions, people learn skills from one of four different modules: interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance/reality acceptance skills, emotion regulation, and mindfulness skills are taught.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – Children (DBT-C) is a 30-week treatment program that focuses on skill development for parents of kids (typically under age 13) who are emotionally sensitive and reactive. These emotional vulnerabilities lead to behavioral and emotional dysregulation including:
- Severe temper outbursts
- Difficulty with change and transitions
- Easily bored
- Avoidance of effort toward completing tasks
- Rapidly shifting attention
- Sensory sensitivity (e.g., touch, smell, hearing, taste)
- Severe interpersonal problems with friends or family
- Difficulty maintaining hygiene
Of course, there are also many benefits of emotional sensitivity including empathy, creativity, pattern recognition, and strong positive emotions. These “super sensor” kids need parents who are “super parents”! DBT-C focuses on helping parents become more effective parents which therefore prevents kids from serious adolescent and adult ineffective behavior.
Groups and Times
- Adults: Tuesday 1-2 PM
- Middle School: Tuesday 5-6 PM
- Teen (High School): Wednesday 5-6 PM