What is DBT? This is a question I often get, not only from new clients, but also from family members and friends. When asking my boyfriend, “How would you explain DBT?” His short and sweet reply consisted of, “AND” at which point I laughed.

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. “D” stands for Dialectical and refers to an integration of opposites: acknowledging that two opposing truths can both exist which leads us to finding the balance or middle path. Dialectics help us stay away from extremes and remind us of several things: opposing points of view can both be true, everything and every person is connected in some way, change is the only constant, and that change is transactional. One of the key points in dialectics is balancing acceptance and change. A technique I use with clients and in my own life, that helps with finding a dialectical perspective, is to replace the word “but” with the word “and”. For example, if you were to say, “You can have a disagreement with someone BUT also be friends,” you would instead say, “You can have a disagreement with someone AND also be friends.” Dialectics is NOT “we agree to disagree”, dialectics is NOT “I’m going to try to convince you that my view/truth is correct.” Dialectics IS “My truth and your truth both exist and there is a shared middle path/synthesis”.

“B” stands for Behavioral. DBT uses a behavioral approach where we highlight target behaviors that are not effective and move towards changing them and/or stopping them altogether. We move towards changing behaviors that are not in line with our goals. For example in my own life: If i were to constantly be five minutes late to work and instead want to be 30 minutes early and be more punctual, I would first bring intentional awareness (mindfulness) to all the different factors that lead to the tardiness.Then I would start to change/modify what I do in order to work towards both A) not showing up 5 minutes late and B) getting to work 30 minutes early.

“T” simply stands for Therapy. A standard DBT treatment program consists of 4 components: individual therapy, skills training class, between-session phone coaching calls, and a therapist consultation team where we hold ourselves to the highest standards of DBT practice. DBT combines Zen Buddhism with traditional Western psychology to increase mindfulness, decrease emotional dysregulation, increase the ability to tolerate distress, and increase assertiveness and interpersonal effectiveness. At Therapeutic Oasis, we offer treatment in alignment with the highest and most adherent standards outlined by DBT’s founder, Dr. Marsha Linehan.

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