Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Lifeline for Borderline Personality Disorder

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a powerful form of talk therapy designed for individuals who experience emotions with exceptional intensity. Rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, DBT is uniquely tailored to address the needs of those who grapple with overwhelming feelings. The term “dialectical” signifies the fusion of opposing ideas, and DBT aims to strike a balance between acceptance of one’s reality and the pursuit of positive change.

DBT helps individuals learn healthier coping mechanisms, moving away from problematic efforts to control intense, negative emotions toward a more balanced and fulfilling life.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Developed by American psychologist Marsha Linehan in the 1970s, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based program that helps people who struggle with regulating their emotions such as frequent, uncontrollable mood swings combined with impulsive behaviors. More specifically, DBT is effective in helping people with emotional instability, reckless behaviors, self-harm behaviors and urges, and suicidal thoughts.

Several studies have shown that DBT is effective in the treatment of borderline personality disorder, however a diagnosis is not required to benefit from DBT treatment. Studies have proven DBT’s effectiveness may also extend to improved management of anger, reduced substance use, reduction in depressive symptoms and improvement in social functioning.

DBT is also effective for a wide range of mental health conditions. It is particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Eating disorders (including binge eating disorder and bulimia)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-harm
  • Substance use disorder
  • Suicidal behavior

DBT is a Skills Model

Although DBT helps to reduce suicidal ideation, self-harm behaviors and hospitalization related to suicidal thoughts, it is not a suicide prevention program. Rather, clients are taught how to build a life worth living, and everything addressed in treatment is to help the client reach their ultimate goals.

Skill development is strongly emphasized, based on the premise that many behaviors are an outcome of not having the skills to manage intense emotions or get needs met effectively. Clients have learned certain behaviors to help them cope with their lives as they are currently being lived. DBT therapists help clients unlearn ineffective coping skills and replace these with healthier, more effective ones.

DBT Modes of Treatment

DBT is a multi-modal, behavior-focused treatment meaning that it integrates multiple therapeutic techniques to address different aspects of the individual’s psychological, emotional and behavioral problems

In a comprehensive DBT program, clients have access to weekly individual therapy sessions, weekly skills training groups, and 24/7 phone coaching to assist with learning and using skills in their own environment. On a comprehensive DBT team, clinicians are required to consult with one another weekly to best help their clients.

DBT at Pine Rest

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Adults and Teens

Pine Rest has comprehensive DBT programs at the Northwest Clinic in Grand Rapids and the Traverse City Clinic. These programs offer skills training, individual therapy sessions, 24/7 phone coaching and weekly team consultation for DBT therapists. Programs are available for both adults and teens. The adult program is a year-long commitment. The teen program is designed for family participation and lasts 6-12 months, depending on the teen’s need. These comprehensive programs are only offered in-person.

Dialectical Skills Training Group

Pine Rest also offers a skills training group for individuals who may not require the full intensity of a comprehensive program but would still benefit from learning the skills. This is currently offered virtually.

To participate in any of these programs, you must be a client of Pine Rest and referred by your therapist or psychiatrist.

DBT-Informed Care

Pine Rest also has a collection of clinicians with training in DBT skills and can offer DBT-informed care.

Contact Us

If you or someone you love could benefit from DBT, please contact Elizabeth Cyr at the Pine Rest Northwest Clinic by calling 616.222.3720 for more information.

To schedule an appointment with a therapist offering DBT-informed care, please call our scheduling group at 866.852.4001.

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