DBT helps relieve anxiety
Emotions serve important functions in our lives. Primary emotions linked to anxiety, such as fear, can at times make perfect sense – when there is a threat to our life, health, or well-being, fear can motivate us to act and protect ourselves. At times, however, emotions like fear arise when they are not helpful or productive. These emotions can be difficult to cope with and manage, leading to anxiety and distress.
DBT works through the process of learning emotional and cognitive skills (acquisition) and subsequently applying those skills to your life (generalization). Generally, DBT tackles difficult and distressing emotions and it can help you improve your capacity for emotional regulation, that is, your ability to control the emotions you have, when you have them, and how you experience and express them.
Using DBT to Develop Emotional Skills and Alleviate Anxiety
Comprehensive DBT consists of several parts, including individual therapy with a trained therapist, group skills training, skills coaching (often available by telephone), and the therapist’s participation in a consultation team. All these parts work together to ensure that DBT offers skills you can put into practice to make you feel more in control and in charge of how you feel and how you live in your surroundings. If you are living with an anxiety disorder, you probably know that feeling in control of yourself is an extremely valuable, validating feeling.
DBT Fills in the Gaps Left by Regular CBT
Dialectical Behavior Therapy was originally developed by psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan in her work with women who had been hospitalized after attempting suicide or serious self-harm. As a health professional who cares deeply about offering her patients effective treatments, Dr. Linehan initially practiced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of treatment that promotes changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to manage and reduce anxiety.
CBT is typically considered a gold standard in anxiety treatments. However, Dr. Linehan found that standard CBT wasn’t working with her clients. CBT’s emphasis on changing thoughts and behaviours did not do enough to support her clients in accepting where they are right now. The CBT techniques alone were too invalidating to people, who often found concepts such as cognitive distortions to imply that their thoughts and feelings were wrong. Dr. Linehan found that something different was needed – a method that acknowledges and supports the truth upon which clients’ experiences are based.
This is where DBT comes in: Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but what makes it unique is its emphasis on mindfulness and dialectical thinking. Rather than only treating symptoms as problems to be solved, DBT places an equally important emphasis on acceptance of experiences as they are in this moment. It is one of several acceptance-based behaviour therapies (ABBTs).