DBT: What the Heck Is It?

Pictured: Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D and creator of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

What does DBT Stand For?

D- dialectical
B– behaviour
T– therapy

What does dialectical mean?

Dialectical, in my understanding, is the idea and mindset that more than one opposing thought, feeling, or fact can be true at the same time. For example, I might say spelling isn’t my strong suit and I write well.

Did you notice “and” was italicized? Very good, reader.

Why did I do that? Because a tool that I was taught in DBT is to replace the word “but” with “and”. It helps in a variety of ways but the main one being validation and removal of blame. For example, if I said “I’m sorry, but you hurt my feelings.”, I’m not truly apologizing. I’m blaming my actions on whoever upset me. If I said “I’m sorry I raised my voice, and you upset me.” I am now acknowledging that I may have been inflammatory and that the other person was also inflammatory. Substituting “and” for “but” has helped diffuse and manage so many arguments I’ve had, and has seriously impacted my tendency to think in All-or-Nothing extremes.

DBT runs 4 modules all centered around mindfulness. Mindfulness is a simple concept that is very challenging to master in practice. When you hear the word “mindfulness” you might think of yoga, or meditation, or even a Zen sand garden with the tiny rake. Truthfully, those or a piece of cake compared to more simplistic methods of being mindful. Of course, you can still get so much out of yoga, but you can drop to downward dog in the middle of a busy mall when you’re having a panic attack.

The next DBT module is Distress Tolerance. This is really a really important set of skills and coping strategies for people who struggle with self sabotaging, self destructive behaviours, and substance use. Distress tolerance gives a variety of quick tricks to calm down enough to use a more complicated skill.

Emotion Regulation is a great set of skills that help you recognize what feelings are appropriate to act on, and how to act on the emotion effectively. This is particularly helpful if you’re like me and really impulsive. It is always important to remember that every feeling is valid, you may just need to think about how you can act on the feeling in a helpful way, not harmful.

Last is Interpersonal Effectiveness. This is a great module if you find your relationships to be turbulent and lacking stability. The different tools are quite extensive and effective for better communication, getting what you need out of a relationship, and of course validating yourself and the other person.
These are
very useful for a lot of different things, including everyday communication. However, it is especially helpful for individuals who struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder.

And that’s exactly who Marsha M. Linehan designed it for!


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