By Jason Carter, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Ashley Kuehne LPC-S
At some point in their lives, just about everyone has been in a situation of difficulty and has thought to themselves, "I don't know what to do. How am I going to get through this?” Now, help can lie in the core skills of Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
In a nutshell, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is simple. "The therapist creates a context of validation rather than blaming the patient, and within that context, the therapist blocks or extinguishes bad behaviors, drags good behaviors out of the patient, and figures out a way to make the good behaviors so reinforcing that the patient continues the good ones and stops the bad ones," says Marsha Linehan, creator of DBT.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a widely used research-based form of behavioral psychotherapy designed to help a variety of people suffering from issues including anger, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, personality disorders, overwhelming emotions, negative thoughts, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and many others in individual and group settings.
DBT is a skills-based and directive approach designed to give clients the tools necessary to cope with the overwhelming emotions and situations they may experience. The therapist and client form an agreement to work collaboratively to learn and implement these skills outside of therapy. The term “Dialectics” generally refers to finding the balance in our lives — not just looking at one side of the chessboard of life, but also being able to view life and the game from the other side of the table and all the areas in between.
Everyone has skills used to cope when dealing with the stressors in life. Sometimes these skills are a healthy addition to our lives, and sometimes these skills do not work and end up making these situations even worse. If these skills don’t work, why do we continue to exhibit these behaviors even though they are intensifying a negative situation? This ongoing action can be related to the behavior aspect of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. People continue to participate in these behaviors because they are getting something out of it, even if only for a brief period of time.
If a behavior is reinforced with any positive effect, a person is more likely to repeat the behavior. For example, people with substance abuse issues generally use drugs and alcohol to cope with life's stressors. Even though repeated drug and alcohol use causes a multitude of problems, the temporary, quick gratification and escape from life can be enough of a relief for a person that they will keep using drugs and alcohol to cope. If used long enough, it’s possible for someone to condition themselves into a continuation of unhealthy coping skills. A promising fact is that these unhealthy coping skills are learned and can be unlearned or replaced with another healthier skill. That is where therapy comes into play.
As a therapist, I can help you identify these "unhealthy behaviors" and how they are negatively impacting your life. Once identified, together, we can find out what new skills can be used in place of these old behaviors. The use of Diary Cards to help track old and new behaviors is a great way to measure progress and areas of improvement. After enough time, the new, healthier skills will become your new reinforcement. These skills will be repeated, as you’ll begin to notice you feel better and happier, resulting in more positive outcomes in your life.
Changing old behaviors is not an easy process and will take time, effort, and dedication. The results can be life-changing for the better and I will work right alongside you in your journey for self-empowerment and growth in many areas of your life. In order to get started, here are the general core skills of DBT and some quick tips to help get the change process begin.
The core skills of DBT include:
- Mindfulness —the awareness and observation of ones thoughts, feelings, behaviors, body sensations, urges, etc… and the world around them in the present moment, without being critical and judgmental
- Distress Tolerance — coping with intense and overwhelming emotions during difficult situations without making things worse
- Emotion Regulation — identifying feelings as they happen and understanding how emotions work and how they affect us
- Interpersonal Effectiveness — having and maintaining healthy fulfilling relationships with other people, from the clerk at 7-11 to our best friends, lovers, coworkers, and family
Try the following tips and get started by making the change to a healthier and happier life:
- Cast Your Judgments Aside — Judgments are the fuel to our negative emotions. In mindfulness, being aware of ourselves in the present moment is a key aspect to catching negative emotions early, and dealing with them before they get out of control. Awareness of these feelings and not judging or being critical of them is a good first step. If you find yourself judging, don't judge your judgments.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Your Feelings — Often, our environments, including ourselves and others, can be invalidating, and may tell us we should not feel a certain way. Feelings are perfectly natural, and you have the right to feel the way you do. What you do with your feelings is key.
- Create Personal Consequences for Your Unhealthy Behaviors — This may sound harsh, but if unhealthy behaviors don't have apparent consequences they are likely to be repeated.
- Encourage Yourself — Try to do one thing a day to help yourself feel competent and in control. Participate in activities you are good at and enjoy to help illicit more positive feelings.
- Learn to Focus — Take some time to focus on just one thing at a time and really give it all of your attention.
- Try Visualization Methods — Take a mini vacation in your mind by imagining a relaxing scene or participate in something to take your mind off things.
- Weigh Out the Pros and Cons — Evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of your unhealthy behavior versus a healthy coping skill.
- Accept Situations for What They are Using Radical Acceptance — Just because you accept something for what it is does not mean you have to like or agree with it.
- Find Healthy Distractions — Distract yourself from self-destructive behaviors by doing positive, healthy activities.
- Calm Down — Participate in mindful breathing and relaxation techniques to help calm you down.
- Think Positively — Use positive and accurate coping thoughts instead of negative, self-defeating thoughts.
- Express Yourself — Use "I statements" to express your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, needs, and wants instead of blaming others for your feelings and problems.
- Do What is Effective — Find what healthy coping skills work for you and continue to use them.
- Keep Up Your Health — Get plenty of rest, exercise your body and mind, take care of physical health issues, and eat healthy.
If you or anyone you know may be able to benefit from DBT to help alleviate symptoms or improve the quality of life, I am here to help. Feel free to call or visit our website to schedule your first appointment.
For more information, contact Jason Carter, LPC-Intern at 972-733-3988 or book your appointment online by clicking here.
Positive Outlook Counseling
Marci B. Stiles, MA, LPC-S, NBCC
16610 North Dallas Parkway, Ste 2100
Dallas TX, 75248
Positive Outlook Counseling services range from individual counseling to family therapy to marriage counseling services. Marci Stiles specializes in individual, family, marriage and troubled teen therapy.
Click Here To Book An Appointment Online