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How is DBT used to treat borderline personality disorder?

Ronald Siegel
Psychology
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has become an established treatment for borderline personality disorder, a difficult-to-treat condition in which people experience extreme fluctuations in mood and in their opinions of themselves and others. Unable to tolerate frustration, people with borderline personality disorder often lash out, and their lives are characterized by chaotic and difficult relationships and by self-destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, self-mutilation, and suicide attempts. Mindfulness skills learned as part of DBT help patients watch their thoughts and emotions nonjudgmentally, enabling them to better tolerate distress and gain more control over their reactions. In one two-year study, patients treated with DBT had far fewer suicide attempts and psychiatric hospitalizations, and they were more likely to stick with their treatment.
Karyn Hall
Psychology

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, has a core philosophy of balancing acceptance and change which is critical for the treatment of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The treatment has both acceptance strategies and change strategies that have been shown to be effective through research. Linehan found that neither pushing too hard for change or not pushing hard enough for change worked. Balancing acceptance and encouraging change in a way that the client could accept was particularly important in working with individuals with intense emotions.

DBT has five treatment components. The first is individual therapy and the second is skills training group. The skills training group is much like a class on how to cope with emotions. The skills learned in the group are used by the individual therapist to help the client manage difficult emotions and situations. There is also phone coaching. The client is encouraged to call for help as to what skills to use in his daily life when he is faced with difficult situations and unsure what to do. Phone coaching helps the client truly apply the skills in his life and not just talk about them during sessions. Finally DBT requires that the therapist be part of a consultation team. This means that the therapist meets with other DBT trained therapists for help to be the best DBT therapist possible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.