Why I Fell in Love with DBT and Moderate Thinking
Updated: Sep 17
(Click to read more about DBT and the differences between skills-based therapies)
There are a lot of reasons that people come to therapy, but one of the most common things I see is a lack of basic emotion identification and management skills.
For those of us lucky enough to come from a home with at least one happy and emotionally fulfilled parent, we may have learned these basic tools from the interactions we had with our caregivers growing up. We may have been taught to differentiate between emotions like anxiety and excitement and frustration and sadness, to soothe ourselves without the aid of external comforts (e.g., food, drugs, TV, retail), to manage conflict, to accept care and compassion from others.
For the rest of us, it’s no wonder we have so many challenges with adapting to change and environmental stressors.
Whatever the circumstances of our upbringing, (e.g., helicopter parents who can’t manage their own anxieties, narcissists who rely on their children to be caretakers, depressed parents who struggle to engage with their children, etc.),
most of us could benefit from more knowledge about how to regulate our emotions without repressing or displacing them so that we can live with meaning, compassion, and intention.
Although I consider myself to do primarily depth-oriented, relationship-building work in my practice, I often integrate DBT when I recognize a deficit in self-reflexivity, mental flexibility, and healthy coping skills. These limitations make insight-oriented work particularly challenging.
When I teach DBT skills, I feel confident that I am equipping my clients with the tools needed to think more critically and behave more effectively in their daily lives, as well as with a firm foundation for deeper, more meaningful psychodynamic work.
DBT focuses on four basic modules: Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance. The overall goal is to reduce suffering and help individuals "build a life worth living.” If you struggle with letting go of unhelpful thoughts, setting boundaries, finding and maintaining healthy relationships, regulating uncomfortable feelings, and acting in your best interest without self-sabotage, then DBT might be for you.
Another benefit of DBT is that it bolsters the self-regulation skills of individuals with trauma in their past who are easily triggered by insight-oriented work. Some individuals who engage in a treatment that involves processing past traumas may return to self-harming behaviors, such as cutting, alcohol or drug abuse, and/or restrictive or binge-eating. These individuals often benefit from some extra structure, support, and explicit instruction around regulating their emotions and thoughts.
I also believe that DBT groups can be used as an adjunct to individual therapy and are really helpful in making dramatic changes to someone’s quality of life in a relatively short period of time. Of course, it’s important to note that these are changes that someone has to be ready and willing to make.
about the author
My passion is helping people connect with their most authentic selves. Through this blog, I hope to offer resources to demystify psychotherapy and encourage you to think about your mental wellness.
In my integrative psychotherapy practice in Echo Park, my mission is to support you in finding your best self and living an examined life.