What is DBT?

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Many of you will already have googled DBT and most probably know as much about it as I do! DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) was developed in the States by Marsha Linehan. It has its roots in CBT, but seeks to focus more on validating and accepting behaviours rather than just challenging them. Yes, I know, you already knew all this from google… I can’t really add much new to the definition, however, I can talk about it from someone who has just started it- from the inside perspective so to speak.

I see DBT as a toolbox full of techniques to enable and help me manage life, my emotions and in many ways my existence. It isn’t counselling as such- rather the sessions are more like 1-1 coaching and skills training. ‘Penelope’ teaches me the skills which I have to practise and keep a record of week by week. This week in particular I have noticed that it is definitely easier to practise them when not in crisis, it is harder to access them when in trouble.There are four core components- 1) Mindfulness 2) Emotional Regulation 3) Interpersonal Effectiveness and 4) Distress Tolerance. In my 3 weeks so far, I have already been really encouraged to learn new things, which on the surface are very simple but I  have already found them effective.

Alongside the DBT skills, we will be doing some schema therapy, which again was something I had not heard of before. This examines more of the reasons why I do some of the things that I do, and then seeks to remedy some of the underlying hurts and thus help my behaviour to adapt. We are hopeful that the schema work should enable me to not just manage in a crisis but to possibly avoid getting into a crisis in the first place- that would be amazing. However, it is painful looking at some of these things while in a really vulnerable time, but as I become more skilled in the DBT I am hoping that will help. Schema therapy considers the life traps that we may fall into and life by e.g. emotional deprivation, defectiveness, dependence. By recognising why we do some of the things we do, we can change our responses to triggers. ‘Re-inventing your life’ by Jeffrey E. Young puts schema therapy into a very readable and practical book- well worth a read for those interested… we all do and have them you know!

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