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Spotlight: Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is an effective combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, the mindfulness practice of Zen Buddhism, and the philosophy of dialectics. DBT was developed back in the ’80s by a psychologist, Marsha M. Linehan to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). This therapy was used initially to help treat people experiencing suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviours, and personality disorders.

However, nowadays DBT is used not only to treat BPD, but also to treat people who suffer with a range of chronic or severe mental health issues. This can include bipolar disorder, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, addiction, and post-traumatic stress and more. The aim of DBT is to change negative thinking and damaging behaviours into positive ones. DBT combines individual and  group therapy sessions that try teach the individual important skills in everyday life.

Individual Sessions

Individual sessions involves one-to-one sessions, at least once a week, with a DBT therapist. These sessions usually focus on different stages (goals) including:

  • Decrease life threatening and other self-harming behaviours.
  • Reduce distortions associated to the trauma or rejection of the facts.
  • Help reach goals and improve quality of life
  • Attain sense of connectedness, joy, and freedom.

In between sessions, you will generally be asked to keep track of your emotions and behaviours by recording them on a diary worksheet. These worksheets are looked at in the following session, to help find what triggers certain behaviours and emotions.

Group Sessions

Group sessions provide essential life skills to individuals through group exercises and role-play. These sessions help to teach:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Emotion regulation.

Similar to individual sessions, you will have to complete homework in between sessions. This will help you practise skills you have learnt in the sessions so that they will become second nature to you.

Skills Coaching

DBT is not limited to individual and group sessions. Therapists also offer clients to contact their therapist in between sessions to get skills coaching, or to get help in a crisis. However, these calls are brief and only permitted during certain hours of the day.

How to access DBT?

You can seek DBT through your GP or community mental health team. More information is available on the HSE website which shows  available DBT programmes in your area.

In addition, if you have to wait a long time before your therapy starts, you could look yourself or ask your doctor if there is any other local support that you can get in the meantime.

Mental Health Ireland
Your Mental Health

Written by: Alannagh Kelly

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