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What is Dialectical Behavioural Therapy?

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive-behavioral approach that focuses on the social aspects of treatment. The term “dialectical” comes from the idea that bringing together two opposites in therapy — acceptance and change — brings better results than either one alone.

DBT theory suggests that some people react in a more intense manner in some emotional situations, especially those found in personal relationships. This theory suggests that some people have elevated arousal levels in such emotional situations, reach a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a longer amount of time to return to pre-arousal levels.

People who are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often experience large swings in their emotions. People with BPD often do not have any methods for coping with these intense surges of emotion. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is a method for teaching skills that will help in this task.

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Characteristics of DBT

• Supportive: It is strength-focused and builds on strengths so that the person can feel more positive about themselves and their life.

• Cognitive-based: It helps identify distorted thoughts and core beliefs that make life more difficult.

• Collaborative: It requires a strong therapeutic relationship between clients and their therapist. In DBT people work out issues in their relationships with their therapist, completing homework assignments, role-playing new ways of interacting with others, and practicing skills such as calming one’s self when upset. The individual therapist helps the person to learn, apply and master the appropriate skills.

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What Conditions Does DBT Treat?

The American Psychiatric Association has endorsed DBT as effective in treating Borderline Personality Disorder. Patients who undergo DBT have seen improvements such as less frequent and less severe suicidal behavior, shorter hospitalizations, less anger, and more likelihood to stay in treatment.

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