When you see the world in black and white, you swing between extremes as a function of existence.
A person who experiences mood or cognitive disorders, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or high anxiety, has been conditioned by their flaring emotions (and attending responses) to react to the world rather than to respond to it.
Jumping from one extreme emotion to the next without having the space to process, breathe, relax, or reflect can be a pretty exhausting cycle to feel stuck in, but not a permanent one.
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Just as your body learned to produce high or flared reactions, it can unlearn them as well. Most sufferers of anxiety or BPD find themselves having intense reactions to emotional situations like intimate partnerships or friendships.
Dialetical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a talk-therapy modality that strives to recognize the arousal trigger, and offer the patient tools to de-escalate their response before it swings to an extreme place.
By continually de-escalating one’s response to emotional stimuli, the patient is able to give themselves space to analyze and interrogate their discomfort rather than immediately respond.
Practiced over time, the DBT skills help patients return to an emotional baseline, improving their ability to talk through and recognize difficult emotional issues.
DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP, and is a cognitive behavioral treatment that emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to integrate new skillsets in dynamic, supportive environments.
Skill development begins with mindfulness practices, and grows into emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness practices, and finally, distress tolerance.
The order of skilling-up allows individuals to work on the foundation of their cognitive behavioral practices before they enter into the higher-stakes, higher-stress arena of interpersonal conflict.
Mindfulness, for example, asks people to tap into and question their personal experience of psychic pain. Using prompts like “Teflon mind” or “wise mind,” clients are asked to approach their problem from a place of neutrality and balance.
By asking themselves to recognize what they are feeling, and reflect on whether their feelings match the experience they are having, clients become able to recognize the gulf between the occurrence and their emotional response and begin to course-correct.
Such course-correcting is considered the pathway to Emotional Regulation, or the client’s improved ability to “buy time” for themselves to work on their coping mechanisms.
Supported by a healthy lifestyle, physical wellness is intended to promote and protect their ability to check in with their emotional responses before their attempt to take action.
The goal of DBT isn’t a cure. It is an ongoing relationship to one’s emotional energy, and the ability to have a productive relationship with it. When we can effectively self-regulate and access a foundation of mindfulness, we’re able to improve our Interpersonal Effectiveness, and ultimately our relationships.
By teaching radical acceptance, the DBT program encourages its practitioners to take responsibility for their response to the world, and offers them the gift of being able to shift their focus away from patterns that do not serve them.
More information about our approach to Dialectical Behavior Therapy can be found in the Treatment Modalities section of our website.