Most of us have complicated relationships with our own family members. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, yet some parents inflict more harm than others by way of abuse or neglect. Someone who has been abused by a parent or loved one may have a difficult time wrestling with two truths at one time: “I love my mother, but she hurt me.” The word “but” implies that two things cannot be true at the same time, and that someone must choose between one or the other, which can be crazy making.
Have you ever been accused of having “black and white” thinking or an extremist when it comes to what you say, think, or do? You are not alone in that. Many people have a difficult time grasping that two opposing ideas can be true at the same time. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) has been proven to be the most effective therapeutic intervention for people who struggle with “live in the grey zone” that is daily life.
Who Can Benefit from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?
While DBT is often recommended for people who live with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it is also incredibly effective for anyone struggling to live with a mood disorder, emotional chaos, or the effects of past and current trauma. Participating in individual DBT therapy or a DBT Skills group is an effective and powerful way to start living life with more freedom from overwhelming emotional experiences.
How Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Works
The process of DBT informed therapy looks very familiar to traditional talk therapy. The therapist works to create a safe environment so that the client is able to trust the relationship. Then the therapist moves into a more practical arena, teaching skills for awareness, emotional regulation, and decision making that are not destructive and conducive to building and maintaining healthy relationships. The therapist’s goals are in line with the client’s goals, and the two work together to bring more stabilization and consistency to the client’s life and interpersonal relationships.
After a few months of DBT informed therapy, a client may be able to say,
“You know what? I love my mom, AND she really hurt me when I was growing up. Now I can hold those two things in tension at the same time, but not become overwhelmed by them.”
This process can take place either in individual therapy or group therapy. In individual therapy, the counselor has more time and ability to focus on one client’s story and goals. In group therapy, the counselor acts more as a teacher and helps the group learn and process skills together. Ideally, the client would be in individual therapy and group therapy weekly, but this can be time consuming and expensive. Any exposure to DBT or DBT informed therapy is helpful, and the best way to jump in is to find a therapist or group that feels safe and trustworthy.
Ultimately, DBT skills help the client regulate his or her own emotions, manage stress, and face conflict so that they are able to respond to the ups and downs of life in a healthy way. With helpful skills and strategies, we can all learn to navigate life’s obstacles without being knocked off of our feet.
Lindsey Coates is a DBT Informed Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She will be leading a weekly DBT Skills Group starting Wednesday, June 19th at the Dr. Phillips office location.