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D is for DBT

Author: null null Published: 1st July 2012 20:17

Marsha LinehanLast year at the age of 68, Marsha Linehan, a Professor of Psychology and the originator of a psychological therapy known as DBT, disclosed her own struggles as a teenager labelled as mentally ill, locked up and given electric shock treatments.

Most of you will never have heard of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). It's a therapy that combines two apparently conflicting concepts - self-acceptance and change (hence ‘dialectical') and focuses on the links between emotions/feelings and behaviour (hence behavioural). I first heard of this a few years ago when it was introduced on a small scale through the mental health services in Portsmouth, and I recently attended a workshop given by someone who had experienced the therapy.

In mental health service ‘speak', DBT is an adaptation of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which has been shown through research studies to be particularly effective with people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

So let's unpack this a bit.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder? This is a diagnosis that may be made when someone is experiencing very intense emotions, such as anger or grief, and trying to control these through impulsive or destructive behaviours such as binge eating, self harming, suicide attempts, misuse of alcohol or drugs, unstable relationships.

DBT interprets this as deeply entrenched problems with regulating emotions. In fact DBT is based on the bio-social belief that some people do experience emotions more intensely than others. So for someone growing up in an ‘invalidating' environment where they don't learn to recognise, express and manage their emotions, this combination can result in significant problems.

For more information about BPD and DBT, try this link:

http://www.mind.org.uk/help/medical_and_alternative_care/dialectical_behaviour_therapy#whatisbpd

A central tenet of this therapy is the idea of self-acceptance and the basis for change. Essentially this is a spiritual principle, and interestingly the therapy encourages the regular practice of mindfulness. The nuts and bolts of the programme, which is highly structured with group based and individual sessions, are around learning emotional intelligence - the development of these skills rather than insight is the measure of progress.

For a fascinating article on Marsha Linehan's background and how she developed her therapeutic practice, click this link.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/health/23lives.html?pagewanted=1

To find out more about The Good Mental Health Company, click here

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