Insights & opinion

What is DBT and how can it help?

Clinical Director, Robin Fenwick-Smith, discusses the rise of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, explains its benefits and how Portobello Behavioural Health uses it with clients.

July 5, 2023

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a powerful therapeutic approach that combines cognitive-behavioural techniques with elements of mindfulness and acceptance. Developed by esteemed psychologist Marsha M. Linehan, DBT aims to equip individuals with the essential skills needed to effectively manage their emotions, cultivate healthier relationships, and navigate distressing situations. In the United Kingdom, DBT has gained recognition as an impactful treatment modality for a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use disorders, personality disorders, and self-harm behaviours.

Studies have revealed significant improvements in reducing self-harm behaviours, enhancing emotional regulation, and improving interpersonal functioning for people with personality disorders. DBT is recommended by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)and there has been a 30% rise in DBT referrals in the last five years.

At Portobello Behavioural Health we use DBT with many of our clients as a way of providing essential coping skills to help people manage stressful situations.

One of the primary benefits of DBT lies in its focus on emotional regulation.

Through DBT, individuals are provided with practical tools and strategies to gain a deeper understanding of their emotions, develop tolerance for emotional distress, and learn how to effectively regulate intense emotional experiences.

This aspect of DBT is particularly valuable for individuals grappling with mood disorders, self-destructive behaviours, or difficulties in managing the ups and downs of their emotions.

Incorporating mindfulness practices, DBT integrates present-moment awareness and fosters non-judgmental acceptance of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness exercises play a pivotal role in DBT by enabling individuals to observe their experiences without becoming overwhelmed by them. By reducing reactivity and fostering a sense of calmness and self-awareness, mindfulness equips individuals with valuable tools to navigate their internal landscape more skillfully.

Another vital aspect of DBT is the enhancement of interpersonal effectiveness. Recognizing the significance of healthy relationships, DBT places a strong emphasis on improving individuals' interpersonal skills. It offers comprehensive guidance on effective communication techniques, assertiveness, and the establishment of appropriate boundaries. By developing and honing these crucial skills, individuals can navigate conflicts more effectively, express their needs with clarity, and foster healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

DBT also equips individuals with distress tolerance skills, providing them with the ability to tolerate distressing situations without resorting to impulsive or harmful behaviours. At PBH we see a range of clients, often with complex needs and the people we work with find this aspect of DBT is particularly valuable in crisis situations, as it empowers individuals to manage intense emotional pain and reduce impulsive reactions. By cultivating distress tolerance, individuals can navigate difficult circumstances without exacerbating the situation or engaging in self-destructive behaviours.

Cognitive restructuring is another integral component of DBT, as it harnesses cognitive-behavioural techniques to challenge and modify unhelpful thought patterns. By identifying and addressing negative or distorted thinking that contributes to emotional distress, individuals can develop healthier perspectives and beliefs. Cognitive restructuring within DBT facilitates improved emotional well-being by promoting adaptive thinking patterns.

DBT emphasizes self-validation and acceptance, nurturing a compassionate and non-judgmental stance towards oneself. This crucial aspect of DBT helps individuals reduce self-criticism, cultivate self-acceptance, and foster a healthier self-image and improved self-esteem. By fostering a positive and compassionate self-perception, individuals can embark on a journey of healing and personal growth.

DBT therapy is typically conducted through individual therapy sessions, offering individuals a dedicated space to explore their challenges and work towards their goals. Additionally, DBT often includes group skills training sessions, where individuals learn and practice DBT skills together, benefiting from shared experiences and mutual support. PBH's experienced team offers both individual and group therapy based around a DBT approach. We advocate this comprehensive therapeutic approach as it balances acceptance and change, recognising individuals' inherent strengths while also fostering positive transformations in their lives.

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