What can DBT help with or treat?
Many people ask whether DBT can be used to treat psychological problems such as anxiety, panic, depression or bipolar disorder, to name a few. In this article, I hope to give you an overview so that it becomes clearer what DBT is and how it can help people with various mental health issues.
What is DBT?
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a form of treatment where you explore life situations, thoughts and feelings with a therapist who will teach you how to use simple skills to manage unhealthy thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
- DBT is based upon the idea that there are opposite ways of looking at situations, which is called dialectical thinking in DBT. A therapist will help you to explore this for yourself and specific difficulties you might be experiencing. For example, when a person is highly anxious, panicky, very depressed or intensely emotional, they will most probably be full of ONE overwhelming thought such as:
Someone who is very anxious - might think - it's going to be terrible/embarrassing.
Someone who is panicking - might think - I can’t do it/I’ll fail/collapse/die.
Someone who is very depressed - might think - what is the point of anything anymore.
Someone who is intensely emotional - might think - this is over/I’ve got to get away.
Dialectics encourages us to see that there is more than one way of looking at a situation, and this is very important because in the moment we can become fixated on negative, catastrophic, hopeless and destructive views, as you see in the example above. Perhaps you can identify with some of these. A DBT therapist will help a person to see an opposite view about a particular situation so they can learn to have more choice. Let’s return to the examples above to explore this:
One view ~ opposite view
It’s going to be terrible/embarrassing and it might be alright/not embarrassing.
I can’t do it/I’ll fail/collapse/die and I might do it/I might not fail/I might not collapse/I might not die.
There is no point to anything and there might be some point to something.
This is over/I’ve got to get away and this might not be over/I might be able to stay.
Thinking about a situation in another way might not be easy for a person who is distressed in some way, whether anxious, panicky, depressed or intensely emotional. DBT can help you to appreciate the importance of allowing time for overwhelming thoughts and feelings to settle before taking action or making an important decision about something. This involves a DBT skill called wise mind, in which you come to see how your mind is made up of a reasonable side as well as an emotional side. In order to be wise, we need to combine reason with emotion. When we are very emotional we are very unlikely to be open to reason, but in order to make a wise decision, this is crucial. So DBT will help you to realise that you may need to allow time to pass before making an important decision and will support you with skills you can use to manage your emotions until you able to access a sense of inner wisdom.
Emotion + Reason = Wisdom.
Counselling coaching may help you learn how to use DBT skills to find balance in your thinking and feeling, and become a more grounded and happier individual.
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