Something I’ve noticed throughout my years of practice is that many of the things people struggle with come down to difficulties with control. Sometimes people feel helpless or overwhelmed with their responsibilities People may also feel that they are struggling to get control over certain aspects of their past, present, or future. That’s where Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) comes in. Among other things, this treatment is about empowering you to take control over your emotions, your thoughts, and your behaviors. DBT helps you learn to take control over any and all parts of your life.
What is DBT?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. Since that time, vast amounts of research have proven that it can help nearly anyone. Whether you are struggling with intense emotional trauma or just a healthy person looking to improve your life, anyone can benefit from learning more about DBT
Step 1: Adopt the DBT Mindset
DBT is more than just a treatment. DBT is also a mindset and way of being. To start changing your life with DBT, you need to first adopt the “DBT Mindset”. Some of the important parts of the “DBT Mindset” include:
A Focus on Effectiveness – Rather than focusing on what is right/wrong, good/bad, or ok/not ok, try shifting your mindset to focus on effectiveness. Essentially, this means focusing on your goals and whether or not what your doing facilitates the accomplishment of those goals.
Mindfulness – DBT encourages us to work on always being Mindful and aware of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, as well as what is going on around us.
Openness to Other Perspectives (Dialectics) – The “D” in DBT stands for dialectical. In being dialectical, you are open to the idea that two things, even if seemingly opposite, can be true at the same time. For example, I can be sad that my co-worker is leaving her job, but also happy for her moving onto a better opportunity.
Ownership Over Your Struggles – One of the most important parts of DBT instructs us to own our problems. We may not have caused all of our problems, but unfortunately, we are the ones that have to fix them.
Step 2: Learn and use DBT Skills
Anyone can benefit from learning DBT skills. DBT skills are divided into 4 categories: Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Distress Tolerance. My favorite DBT skill is a Distress Tolerance skill called “Radical Acceptance”. Radical Acceptance encourages us to take a hard look at our responses to situations: Do you have any control over what has happened? Is what you’re doing helping the situation? Is your reaction actually doing anything productive, or just making you miserable? The answer is usually no. We don’t have to approve of whatever is going on, but we do have to accept that the reality that it is actually going on. In realizing this, we empower ourselves to choose to radically accept the reality of our situation so that we stop beating our head against a wall and move forward.
Step 3: “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change”
DBT, like most things, is not something you can do half-heartedly or for a period of time and let go. It is something that is a way of being and a lifestyle. In order to really see lasting change from anything, you have to commit to it and integrate it into your daily functioning. Some people do that by seeking formal DBT treatment. Others may do it through self-study. Regardless, practice makes perfect. The more you practice and the more support your receive while practicing, the more results you will see.