DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy and was created by Marsha Linehan. DBT is essentially similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy but with an emphasis on Mindfulness. DBT was designed to help people combat self-destructive behavior such as self-harm (cutting), eating disorders, addictions, and interpersonal conflict. Linehan created this program in a way that can be easily understood and utilized by young teens as well as by adults. She created multiple acronyms which are very helpful and useful for clients to remember.
There are four components that DBT touches on. Mindfulness is the main component of DBT because it is believed that staying present can be useful in minimizing destructive behavior. Mindfulness is about focusing on one task at a time. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as gazing at a flicker of a candle flame and paying close attention to the action taking place with a particular object. The goal of mindfulness is to notice what is taking place and non-judgmentally observe. Mindfulness can also be based around food consumption, which is why it is commonly taught in eating disorder treatment. Another way that clients can learn to be mindful is to focus solely on their breath and the feeling of inhalation or exhalation.
Distress Tolerance involves learning about skills that can aid a client in dealing with stressful situations or high crisis situations. A integral concept within the Distress Tolerance module is called the three states of mind. The three states of mind is comprised of the Rational (logical) mind, the Emotional mind and the Wise mind. Clients are taught that there are people who generally act with a more logical mind and those who act with more of an emotion mind. The goal for clients is to take the time to integrate both the rational and emotional mind when making a decision so that less impulsive action is taken (emotion mind) and so that decisions are also not solely based in rigidity (rational mind).
Emotion Regulation is third module in DBT. A large component to the emotion regulation module involves participating in an opposite to emotion action. For example, if a person is suffering with a depressed mood and is commonly inclined to isolate in the house, the person would then do the opposite of what they are inclined to do. They might ask a friend to go and take a walk instead.
Interpersonal Effectiveness is the final component of DBT. Interpersonal Effectiveness is largely based around assertive communication with others. It is also important for clients to learn specifically about validating others as well as listening attentively and empathetically. This component does not stop at relationships but also focuses on teaching self-respect.
At Eating Disorder Center of San Diego, we include DBT therapy in our daily groups, and encourage our clients to use these wonderful tools to enrich their lives and overcome challenges in many aspects of life.
– Mia Najor, MA, IMF- Staff Clinician at Eating Disorder Center of San Diego
*This article is intended for those suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, in the greater San Diego area, seeking affordable treatment and services