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DBT stands for Dialectal Behavioral Therapy. It’s a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral approach that emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment. According to the theory supporting DBT, some people are more prone to overreact towards certain emotion situations that typically involve family, friends, and romantic partners. Colloquially speaking, some people get bent out of shape more quickly than other people. They also take a longer time to calm down.

DBT is especially helpful for those suffering from mental disorders that involved intense mood swings, such as borderline personality disorder. Someone diagnosed with borderline personality disorder will experience extreme mood swings and they typically see the world in black and white – no gray areas. Dialectal Behavioral Therapy is helpful for these individuals because the therapy teaches them new coping skills to help them deal with the extreme emotional mood swings in a healthy way.

History of DBT

The theory of Dialectal Behavioral Therapy was first developed by Marsha Linehan. Her work has been designed specifically for people who self-harm, for those diagnosed with borderline personality (BPT), and for those who suffer from pervasive suicidal thoughts and/or attempts. Linehan developed the theory of DBT as a result of her own transformation in 1967, while she prayed in a small Catholic chapel. Linehan describes it below:

“One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold—and suddenly I felt something coming toward me… It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, “I love myself.” It was the first time I remembered talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed.”

DBT helps the patient understand the balance between acceptance and change, how to love one’s self while also understanding what can be improved upon.

Characteristics of DBT

According to An Overview of Dialectal Behavioral Therapy, the main components of DBT include support-oriented, cognitive-based, and collaborative efforts on the part of the patient.

1. Support-oriented: The therapist supports the patient by helping them identify their strengths. The therapist helps the patient expand and build upon those strengths, thus making the patient feel better about his life and his choices.

2. Cognitive-based: DBT helps the patient identify thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that make his life more complicated, while also teaching new ways of thinking. For example, a patient might believe, “I have to be perfect at everything I do.” DBT teaches the patient to recognize this thought and address it by saying, “I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to give it my best shot.”

3. Collaborative: People are encouraged to work out problems in their relationships with their therapist and the therapists do the same with them. DBT asks people to complete homework assignments, to role-play new ways of interacting with others, and to practice skills such as soothing yourself when upset.