Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) combines methods from cognitive therapy (the connection of thoughts, behaviors, and feelings) and behavioral therapy (learned behaviors and how the environment impacts those behaviors), as well as incorporates aspects of Eastern meditative practice (mindfulness).

Named for the philosophy of dialectics—that is, the examination and discussion of opposing ideas in order to find the truth—DBT aims to help patients accept their uncomfortable thoughts, behaviors, and feelings as valid, while still acknowledging they must be changed in order to live a better life.

Developed as a way to help chronically suicidal individuals, DBT has proven successful for people with extremely painful problems, complex trauma, persistent mood disorders, PTSD, and those caught in negative behavior patterns that include self-harm, substance abuse, and eating disorders.

DBT and Trauma Recovery

Often, the emotional problems we face arise from unresolved past trauma that we carry locked in our bodies—during traumatic events, the human brain acts to quarantine memories of the trauma by separating them from normal, everyday brain processing.

Left unresolved, this trauma can leak out into seemingly unrelated situations. If the memory of trauma is triggered by familiar circumstances or interactions, it can lead to confusing and destructive emotional responses, which frequently cause problems in interpersonal and professional relationships.

DBT helps individuals learn about their triggers and from where they originate. With this knowledge, patients become more self-aware; once they begin to notice their undesired reactions, they can refrain from unhelpful coping patterns. Eventually, the frequency and severity of self-destructive behaviors is decreased and the motivation to change is increased.

DBT Therapy and Groups

The Resource Group offers the most experienced DBT clinicians and group facilitators in the Baltimore area, a strong group of trauma specialists, and DBT groups that teach skills at beginner and graduate levels. There are groups available for adults and adolescents.

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DBT Strategies

In DBT, participants learn skills and strategies to balance the ideas of acceptance and change as they work toward their therapy goals. These skills include:

  1. Mindfulness refers to the practice of being fully aware and present in each moment. Instead of avoiding or blocking out reality, you pay attention to what you are experiencing.
  2. Distress tolerance helps you learn to tolerate pain in difficult situations. Instead of trying to change the pain, or shut it off, you can accept it and establish healthier reactions.
  3. Interpersonal effectiveness will allow you to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and healthy relationships with others.
  4. Emotion regulation will help you monitor your emotional life, change those reactions you wish to change, and improve your sense of personal empowerment.