I am part of the 1 in 4 adults worldwide who struggle with mental illness. This past September I started Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and it has completely changed my life.
DBT was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Marsha Linehan. It falls under the umbrella of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It pays particular attention to the psychosocial aspects of treatment, and as a result it is able to help people who struggle with intense emotions.
DBT has four modules: mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. Within these four modules, there are many skills. Mindfulness is all about living in and valuing the present moment. Emotion regulation is about understanding the model of emotions, learning how to modify emotions when they are causing distress, and learning how to reduce emotional vulnerability. Distress tolerance is about building crisis survival skills. Interpersonal effectiveness is about how to interact with people in a healthier way and learning how to more effectively navigate relationships. One of the missions of DBT is to "build a life worth living." Through learning DBT skills, people are able to learn how to navigate suffering in a more constructive, less painful way, and they are able to create lives that are very fulfilling.
Often, DBT is done in a group setting as well as on an individual basis, but sometimes (like in my case) it’s done solely on an individual basis. I meet with my therapist once a week for 45 minutes. Each week I have different homework assignments to complete based on the different skills that I’m working on that particular week, and those assignments tend to direct our session.
The only type of therapy I have done is DBT so I can’t speak for other forms of therapy, however, I find DBT to be incredibly effective and helpful. In just 7 months, I have managed to turn my life around. I have built a wide array of skills to use in many situations (I use a number of them daily!) that have allowed me to handle my struggles in a much more effective manner. It’s allowing me to tackle the roots of the issues, instead of just trying to push them away and forget about them like I did in the past.
While I have come a long way since I started DBT, I definitely still have a lot of hard work to do. I still struggle often, and I definitely still have bad days. However, I’m now learning that struggling isn’t weakness, and that therapy isn’t something to be ashamed of. Mental health is just important as physical health, and I am striving to raise awareness this Mental Health Month.
To find a therapist in your area, check out Psychology Today.