By Alexis Friedlander, LMSW
Developing a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) practice may prove very helpful to calm our minds and bodies. DBT is an evidence-based intervention that was developed by Marsha Linehan in the 1980s to treat people with borderline personality disorder (Linehan, 2014). Over the years, it has become a well-known practice benefitting diverse individuals struggling with various problems, such as emotion dysregulation, anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, suicidality, self-harm, anger management, trauma, impulsive behaviors, substance use, reactivity, avoidance, and more (Behavioral Tech- A Linehan Institute Training Company, 2019). There is overwhelming evidence that has empirically shown how effective DBT is in changing lives.
What is DBT? “D” refers to a dialectic, which is the concept that two opposite positions can both be true (Linehan, 2014). It seeks to integrate and balance two contrasting ideas/thoughts/feelings/etc. and hold that both can be accepted and addressed simultaneously (Behavioral Tech- A Linehan Institute Training Company, 2019). For example, have you ever felt very depressed AND still got out of bed and were productive? In learning skills, we assume that we are doing the best we can with what we have AND we can work to grow and evolve using healthier skills/behaviors (Behavioral Tech- A Linehan Institute Training Company, 2019). “B” refers to behavioral. This piece examines different situations in which we can alter behavior that negatively affects us. For example, instead of engaging in self harm to elicit relief, we may practice skills, such as STOP (S-stop, T-take a breath, O-observe, P-proceed mindfully) (Linehan, 2014). “T” stands for therapy. Lastly, within DBT there are four main components from which we can learn skills: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness (Linehan, 2014).
Here are 5 Ways DBT Can Help Settle Our Mind and Bodies:
- Regulate Our Emotions. By learning emotion regulation skills, we can begin to understand our emotions, the functions they serve, how to observe and/or combat our emotions, and how to increase our resiliency for unwanted emotions when they arise (Sunrise Residential Treatment Center, 2017). When we are able to regulate our emotions, we are able to better regulate our bodies and their physiological state, as well.
- Tolerate Distressing Events/Thoughts/Feelings. Distress tolerance skills are an important component to settling our minds and bodies because when we experience a crisis, we can utilize them to survive WITHOUT making the crisis worse (Compitus, 2020). It allows us to tolerate and cope with extreme emotions when we feel out of control and/or are not sure what may help in the moment without doing anything to change it (Compitus, 2020).
- Effectively Communicate and Create Positive Relationships. Relationships are important to mental health as all human beings seek connection. When we have unstable, unhealthy, and/or difficult relationships, there can be an immense amount of stress and toll that is placed on our bodies. DBT teaches us that it is okay to say “no” without losing relationships, as well as, becoming assertive and asking for what we want (in a healthier way) (Behavioral Tech- A Linehan Institute Training Company, 2019). Gaining interpersonal effectiveness skills can be extremely beneficial in calming our core as it helps us effectively communicate, which in turn, helps us develop and maintain healthier relationships (Linehan, 2014).
- Develop Mindfulness. Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful tool to use to settle our bodies. Mindfulness teaches us to live in the present moment, to simply observe what is happening around us without placing judgment, and to accept what is (Linehan, 2014). We learn to broaden our awareness to not only the outside world and our behaviors, but to our inner world and our thoughts, feelings, and urges (Linehan, 2014). By being mindful, we take away the pressure of being a certain way or doing a certain thing and we can just be.
- See Through a Balanced Lens. Our mind is comprised of three states: emotional, reasonable, and wise (Linehan, 2014). Our emotional mind, the one where most of us live in (especially teens), is where feelings control our thoughts/behaviors (Linehan, 2014). On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the reasonable mind – where intellect and reason are the driving forces behind our actions (Linehan, 2014). The wise mind is a healthy balance of the two. We seek to “walk the middle path” and utilize “wise mind” so that we can recognize our feelings AND respond to situations in a rational way (Linehan, 2014). By looking at the world through a comprehensive and balanced lens, we are able to stray away from “all or nothing” thinking patterns and, instead, compromise and/or make healthier choices (Linehan, 2014).
Through the use of DBT and learning the skills that come along with it, you can truly see changes to how your mind works, how your body feels, and, ultimately, how to lead a more balanced life.
- Behavioral Tech- A Linehan Institute Training Company. (2019). Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://behavioraltech.org/
- Compitus, K., DSW, LCSW. (2020, October 01). What Are Distress Tolerance Skills? Your Ultimate DBT Toolkit. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://positivepsychology.com/distress-tolerance-skills/