It’s no secret that life is a series of challenges and victories alike. From one day to the next, we’ll experience the highs and the lows that life sends our way. Even though we often cannot control much of what happens to us on a daily basis, we always have a hand in how we respond. In fact, it’s often our emotional response to life’s issues and successes that play more of a role in determining who we become. However, sometimes it takes practice and guidance to learn the best ways to respond to these ups and downs.
What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps clients manage an emotional response to life’s events, oftentimes events that elicit negative feelings like trauma, depression, grief or loss. To help mitigate conflict and promote positive emotional responses to life’s conflicts, dialectical behavioral therapy offers patients therapeutic modalities that improve focus and emotional management.
How does Dialectical Behavioral Therapy work?
If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety or co-occurring disorders, DBT can help you better regulate feelings before they manifest into destructive actions or tendencies.
The main points of dialectical behavioral therapy which focuses on benefitting your mental health include:
1. Adopting mindfulness
Mindfulness might be the most important facet of dialectical behavioral therapy, in that it calls for a developed understanding and perspective of what is happening around you. Mindfulness therapy is simple: it helps clients focus on the current moment, what they’re currently feeling and experiencing, and how those thoughts and feelings ultimately contribute to the actions we take.
One major aspect of mindfulness requires that we slow down and take in each moment as it happens, without passing judgment or asserting opinions on the situation, emotion, etc. Mindfulness therapy helps reorganize the thought process, eliminating automatic negative conclusions and promoting clear thinking, regardless of the day’s events or issues.
2. Learning distress tolerance
When it comes to distress tolerance, it’s all about acceptance: acceptance of yourself, your emotions and your current situation. Mindfulness therapy and other treatment modalities can actively help you promote healthy thoughts and productive habits; distress tolerance ensures that no matter where you are on your therapy journey, you can come to accept and love yourself.
Distress tolerance hinges on 4 distinct skills:
Learning to improve the current moment
Balancing positives/negatives of improper distress management
Independent from therapy modalities that help you address life’s challenges, distress tolerance forces you to take time and accept yourself for who you are in the moment. You are more than the sum of your challenges or the disorders you face; you are an individual who should feel proud of your progress.
3. Developing interpersonal effectiveness
Your opinions are meant to be more than felt and experienced – they are meant to be shared. That’s exactly what interpersonal effectiveness helps you do: share your thoughts and opinions in the context of a relationship, without compromising your mental or emotional state, or the relationship itself. In a healthy, straightforward manner, interpersonal effectiveness helps you uphold your end of familial, fraternal or romantic relationships.
Just as a relationship can come to a halt if only one party makes a habit of regular communication, a relationship flourishes when both parties agree to open, honest conversation. Learning to effectively communicate in any relationship also means being ready to listen to other individuals, and to process and understand their thoughts and opinions with equal importance to your own.
4. Practicing emotional regulation
Finally, emotional regulation helps you process strong feelings in a rational manner. In fact, the first step when it comes to ultimately changing your emotions is to identify them and understand what triggers them. Before you allow thoughts or emotions, positive or negative, to influence your actions, emotional regulation can provide you with the tools you need to positively identify and control what you’re feeling.
Emotional regulation begins with recognizing familiar emotions, especially emotions you know have contributed to destructive actions in the past. Instead, after identifying your emotions as you feel them, emotional regulation helps you to reduce emotional vulnerability and cope with any negative thoughts and feelings before they manifest into an experience.
Manage emotions and improve relationships through DBT