Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

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Originally conceived as a treatment for Borderline personality disorder, Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is now being used for a variety of diagnoses.

DBT consists of two essential components:

  1. Individual therapy in which the patient and therapist discuss issues of the previous week while adhering to an ordered list of things to be addressed. Issues of suicide or self injury are discussed first, followed by issues that might interefere with therapy, followed by quality of life issues and then, last but not least, issues of improving the patient’s life in general.
  2. Group therapy, or “skills group”, which meets typically once a week and lasts for 2-2½ hours in which patients concentrate on learning to use life skills that break down into four “modules”,

    • Mindfulness
    • Emotion regulation
    • Interpersonal effectiveness
    • Distress tolerance

Of these four life skills, the greatest emphasis is given to mindfulness, a concept that comes from the Buddhist tradition. Simply put, mindfulness is the quality of being intentionally conscious and aware of one’s thoughts and actions in a non-judgmental fashion.

When clinical studies found Dialectical behavioral therapy to be very effective against Borderline personality disorder, its use became expanded to include eating disorders and other emotional disorders.

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