Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Help for those who struggle with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

It’s called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, and it offers help for adolescents and adults who find themselves in an ongoing struggle with suicide. For more than 40 years, DBT has been used to help people learn ways to cope, heal and bring peace to their lives. Bellin Health offers therapists who specialize in DBT. Therapists in the DBT program are intensively trained by Marsha Linehan’s institute, B-Tech.

Who can benefit from dialectical behavior therapy?

DBT is commonly known as a treatment for people who’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It’s also researched and effective in treating substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and multiple life problems or chaos.

What is dialectical behavior therapy?

Typically, there are four key phases to a successful DBT program, and to helping a patient build a life they feel is worth living.

Phase 1: DBT teaches new behaviors in a specific order designed to first keep the person alive, keep the person active in therapy, and then to help improve the overall quality of life.

This phase includes individual and group therapy. The emphasis of group therapy is to learn coping skills, and the emphasis of individual therapy is to address problems and build a life worth living.

Specific skills participants will learn in Phase 1 include:

  • Mindfulness: becoming aware of the present moment
  • Distress tolerance: how to cope with emotional pain, how to accept yourself, and your circumstances
  • Emotion Regulation: how to reduce vulnerability and build positive emotions.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to be assertive without harming relationships or your self-respect.

Phase 2: Reclaiming positive emotions and treating PTSD

In this phase, we help the patient deal with traumas they’ve personally experienced, and the aftermath of that trauma that has shaped how they feel. It is common that people in DBT have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). DBT is used in combination with another researched therapy, Prologned Exposure (PE), to treat trauma. Therapists in the DBT program at Bellin are trained in PE.  

Phase 3: Building the life worth living  

Here, we help the patient identify and define goals and to begin to envision the life they want for themselves. We focus on ways to build self-respect, and find peace and happiness. We learn to accept that life is made up of both good things and bad things and we learn how to respond in healthy ways to all circumstances.

Phase 4: Finding freedom, joy and completeness  

This phase is specifically for people who want to continue finding meaning and purpose. The goal is to move from a sense that life, as it is, is incomplete, and to uncover a path to a more fulfilling, purpose-driven life that can help increase our capacity for experiencing joy.

To learn more about dialectical behavior therapy at Bellin Health, please contact Bellin Health Riverside Psychiatric Group at (920) 338-2855.

Kimberly Marohl, LPC
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Bridget Blean, LPC
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