Understanding Dialectical Behavior Therapy at Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health

March 8, 2019
At Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health, our multidisciplinary team utilizes evidence-based treatment practices when working with our patients. Our team is consistently attending training seminars, examining the current research literature, and engaging together in dynamic and professional discussions to enhance our clinical knowledge. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a well researched and effective form of treatment that many of our patients benefit from. This empirically-supported treatment is a comprehensive psychotherapy that is used to treat disorders such as bipolar and unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, borderline personality disorder, suicidal ideation, self -harm and substance use disorders to a name a few.

This treatment modality was created in the 1980’s by psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan who had experienced her own struggles with mental health. DBT is considered a “third-wave” cognitive behavioral therapy as it has roots in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Dr. Linehan focused on incorporating elements of mindfulness to help alleviate more severe symptoms of depression and chronic mood dysregualtion. To this end, Dr. Linehan needed to construct a detailed, yet straight-forward treatment modality with distinct components.

DBT treatment consists of several components including individual sessions, skills groups, phone coaching, and consistent treatment team involvement. At the heart of DBT is acceptance and change. Furthermore, DBT is broken down into four major modules that patients utilize to decrease their negative mental health symptoms. These four modules include: distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. These concepts are often referred to as “skills.”

At Jefferson Oaks, our team utilizes these four skills as building blocks for coping strategies when working with our patients. We offer specific groups for our patients that are directly associated with these skills. These four skills are incredibly applicable for several areas of an individual’s life. Distress tolerance focuses on learning how to tolerate our everyday stressors by utilizing techniques such as relaxation and distraction. Emotion regulation encourages us to explore and identify our current emotional states to process our undesirable emotions. Interpersonal effectiveness teaches us an array of techniques to improve relationships with others (including ourselves!). Some of the main techniques taught with this skill include effective communication, boundary/limit setting, and assertiveness. The final skill of mindfulness is an “umbrella skill” that provides the backdrop to enhance the other three skills. That is, mindfulness helps us know when to use each skill by building our own awareness. Mindfulness assists us in better identifying our current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that may be adversely affecting our mental health.

At Jefferson Oaks, we believe each person’s story is unique, so while an individual may benefit from one or two skills more than the others, we believe that educating and engaging in each one of these skills can lead to more stability and an overall sense of wellness. These four skills combined with other effective treatment alternatives can produce positive life-changing results. Upon entering our program, many patients are eager to begin working but are often overwhelmed by symptoms of depression and anxiety. DBT utilizes a “feet forward” approach, which means that the skills are quickly taught and can become part of your daily practice. Implementing these behavioral techniques early on in the treatment process increases a sense of control and contributes to greater self awareness which allows patients to feel better....sooner.

For more information on DBT, check out the links below: