Dialectical behavior therapy or DBT was originally developed to treat people with borderline personality disorder, particularly those who were chronically suicidal. However, mental health experts are now finding that DBT skills training can be used in outpatient psychiatric care to address symptoms of depression as well as many other mental illnesses.
What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
Dialectical behavior therapy is a modified form of cognitive behavioral therapy developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan that focuses on “accepting” uncomfortable and unhealthy behaviors and thoughts instead of struggling against them. The essential idea behind it is that once such a behavior is validated, changing the behavior no longer appears impossible.
DBT also helps patients acknowledge that their most self-destructive behaviors are unhealthy and that they must change them even as they accept them for what they are. The process of changing one’s thinking and behavior can sometimes seem overwhelming, but the goal of DBT is to make it a little easier to understand and handle.
DBT Skills Training Modules
DBT has 4 skill modules: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.
Mindfulness concepts and exercises teach the ability to pay attention to and accept the present moment without passing judgment on it. Participants learn how to observe and describe events neutrally, which ultimately helps to develop clearer communication and reasoning skills.
Distress Tolerance helps participants develop skills to better handle distressing events, including strategies such as temporary distraction, self-soothing, relaxation, and ultimately acceptance.
Emotional Regulation involves properly identifying the type or source of an emotion and reacting to it accordingly. With Emotional Regulation, individuals are able to counter intense emotions with logic and appropriate action.
Interpersonal Effectiveness is the ability to competently navigate social encounters, especially with a goal in mind. The module focuses on interactions where the objective is to gain a response or create a change, particularly for getting something, giving something, and maintaining self-respect.
DBT and Depression
As we said before, DBT wasn’t specifically created to address depression, but due to its core premise, many patients and psychiatrists have found that it can be used as an effective treatment. DBT emphasizes validation and tolerance, two things that are in short supply for many depressives. A person living with depression often feels worthless, and that creates an overwhelming sense of sadness that invalidates practically every aspect of their life.
Whether they cut themselves down or live in a toxic environment full of people invalidating them, depressives have aspects of their lives that feed into their depression. DBT offers coping mechanisms that allow patients to address the negative aspects of their lives and ultimately break free from them. Like all psychiatric treatments, the process takes time, but conventional wisdom says that it works when patients and therapists give it a chance.
The use of diary cards is a major component of DBT, one that could prove invaluable for treating symptoms of depression. Diary cards are used by patients to keep track of the invalidating thoughts and behaviors that affect them the most, but they can also be used to record what coping mechanisms are effective.
Patients are encouraged to keep their diary cards with them at all times and bring them to their therapy sessions so they can receive feedback from therapists and other patients. Once again, it’s another useful tool that works for treating borderline personality disorder and depression.
While there are no miracle cures when it comes to treating depression, dialectical behavior therapy could be used to help patients all over the world. If you would like to know more about dialectical behavior therapy in New Jersey, contact the mental health professionals at High Focus Centers for a professional assessment.