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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is one of the modified forms of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which empowers patients with new skills and strategies to manage difficult emotions. It is different, however, in its approach as compared to other therapy programs. During DBT, patients are taught to accept situations, issues, relationships they consider to be negative, and other disturbing situations rather than ignoring them or getting traumatized by them on a daily basis. They are taught to live in the moment and deal with the negativity instead of escaping it. It helps the patient understand thoughts and moods that influence their actions, thereby teaching them to control themselves. Read more

DBT is used to treat patients suffering from mental health disorders like bipolar disorder (BD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), binge eating, and substance abuse.

History of DBT

DBT was developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan, a renowned psychologist at the University of Washington. It was initially developed to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) and suicidal tendencies.

The therapy is based on the philosophical concept of dialectics which means that everything comprises of opposites and that a change takes place when one of the opposing forces is stronger than the other. Thus during a DBT session, a psychiatrist and patient work closely to get past the contradiction between transformation and self-acceptance so as to bring positive changes in the patient.

Over the years, DBT has been used to treat people with a number of different forms of mental health problems. According to researches, DBT has been effective in treating teen mental health disorders.

Constituents of DBT

DBT is based on specific principles which are as follows:

  • Individual therapy – During an individual therapy session, the patient and therapist discuss about the weekly issues, following a target hierarchy. The first priority is given to issues centered on suicidal behavior or self-injurious behaviors. This is followed by concerns which interfere with the course of therapy. Next in line are the problems which affect one’s quality of life. The patient and therapist work towards improving the former’s skill use during these sessions.
  • Group skill training – The group sessions are conducted once a week for 2 to 2.5 hours. Here the participants learn to use skills which are broken down into four modules. These include interpersonal effectiveness, core mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation.
  • Formation and consultation of a team of providers/therapists – A weekly meeting comprising of all therapists providing DBT is conducted. It aims to support the therapist offering treatment.
  • Phone coaching – Therapists are available over a phone call for patients away from treatment. These calls are usually limited and focused on skills.

Treatment programs which use DBT

DBT is helpful in treating mental health disorders in both teens and adults. Along with medications, it is used in the treatment of substance abuse and co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.

The therapeutic process is used to treat addiction disorders across different age groups. During addiction treatment programs, DBT lays emphasis on:

  • Self-restraint from drugs and alcohol
  • Identification and removal of triggers and unhealthy relationships
  • Reducing temptations and cravings to avoid relapse

Teens who abuse drugs or alcohol learn to accept responsibility for their action during DBT sessions. This helps in gaining control over their problems as well as their addiction. Sessions can be carried out electronically at offices, outdoor locations, and even via phone for those who cannot be present physically.

Many teenagers suffering from mental health illness find it difficult to control their emotions. Patients may suffer from sudden and steep emotional shifts, unhealthy relationships or situations. DBT is used to treat adolescents and teens suffering from such emotional dysregulation. They are taught to identify emotions and obstacles and cultivate positive feelings.

Dialectical behavior therapy is very useful in treating depression. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, 3.2 million adolescents between the age of 12 to 17 have suffered at least one major depressive episode. DBT helps teens learn coping mechanisms and recover from depression. It also helps them in combating depressive symptoms.

Along with depression, many teens suffer from suicidal thoughts and attempts. It also leads to self-harm and self-mutilation. DBT helps teens identify the trigger to their suicidal thoughts and learn how to cope and change those thoughts. DBT is also effective in treating suicidal tendencies co-occurring with other mental health illnesses.

Benefits of DBT

Therapy helps people struggling with substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. By changing their harmful attitudes and negative thought patterns, therapy helps patients gain control over their emotions. DBT helps in empowering patients with positive changes and teaches them practical skills needed for a normal day-to-day life. Though the skills vary from person to person, some of the common ones are:

  • Ability to make unbiased and factual decisions about their experience
  • Learn coping and reaction mechanism and following them to lead a happy, healthy life.
  • Observe and identify the triggers and handle them effectively
  • Ability to concentrate and stay focused

The best part about DBT is that it is easy to recognize if therapy is working or not. Patients who undergo a successful experience in DBT should be able to:

  • Experience a reduction of undesired thoughts and feelings
  • Have a positive relationship with their therapist
  • Accept and understand their strengths and capabilities
  • Have the ability to cope with situations
  • Have an overall healthy relationship with family and friends

DBT also offers some distraction techniques which help patients identify and manage their behavior. Some of those techniques are:

  • Involvement in enjoyable activities
  • Engaging in actions to change negative thoughts to positive ones
  • Shifting focus to others rather than oneself
  • Participating in different experiences and activities which help in creating a distraction

The success rate of DBT is high due to its ability to decrease unwanted and unhealthy behavior amongst teens. By combining multiple strategies and techniques, patients are taught to deal with negative behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. DBT offers various techniques, therefore, if one technique does not work, a patient can try another one until they reach a solution.

Treatment at Adeona Healthcare

It is important to help a teen struggling with self-destructive behavior. Along with medications, DBT may be a strong choice for the treatment program. DBT enhances the positive effects of other therapeutic techniques such as family counselling and peer group sessions.

Adeona Healthcare, a rehab center for teens aged between 12 to 17, provides comprehensive treatment program from mental health illness, teen alcohol or drug addiction, and dual-diagnosis. In addition to medications, we also offer therapies like solution-focused therapy (SFT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), increasing the chances of long-term recovery.

We personalize our treatment programs for our young patients keeping in mind their treatment goals. To know more about how we can help your teen rediscover the will to live, call our 24/7 helpline 888-379-9360 and speak with a member from our admissions team. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.

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