What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?

DBT or dialectical behaviour therapy is a psychological therapy aimed at people suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD), in particular those clients exhibiting self-harming behaviour or expressing suicidal thoughts.

People participating in a dialectical behaviour therapy group often experience a wide range of intensive and negative emotions such as shame, sadness, fear, guilt or anger and they find these intense emotions very difficult to control.

As they cannot control what they are feeling, people who have been diagnosed with BPD are prone to impulsive behaviour and have often an overall feeling of emptiness. Thus, self harming and suicide attempts can accompany a range of other symptoms such as sharp mood swings and not being able to hold on to relationships. Clients sometimes fear to be abandoned by the very people who should form part of their support network.

Dialectical behaviour therapy was expressly developed to deal with such issues, which may partly be caused by inherited genes or have sometimes arisen because as children BPD sufferers were told not to be upset and show their emotions in distressing or difficult situations, such as grief, trauma, physical or sexual abuse.

There are two basic elements to dialectical behaviour therapy.

  •  Therapist and client work one-on-one and enter into an agreement, where both duties and rules are set out for both parties and both agree to adhere to these. Therapist and client work closely together and whenever a client cannot comply with the agreed set of rules and tasks, this is addressed.
  • Two therapists work with a group of clients, where important new skills and abilities can be learned in conjunction with specific themes that the group practices such as being able to deal better with stress in daily life or enter into stable relationships.

Cards for Life can also be used in conjunction with DBT. Learn how to use them in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy here.

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