Dialectical behavior therapy provides tools for taking control of emotions and behavior
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) teaches people to better regulate their emotions to serve their goals, increase their sense of personal identity, improve their judgment, sharpen their observational skills and reduce the sense of crisis in their life. DBT is a psychosocial treatment developed by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington, for individuals with borderline personality disorder, but it has been proven effective as a therapy for people with other diagnoses, such as depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders, as well.
In Depressed and Anxious: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook for Overcoming Depression and Anxiety, Thomas Marra, Ph.D., (2004 New Harbinger Publications Inc) provides a blueprint anyone can follow to put this therapy to work in their life.
In the book, Marra teaches you to identify dialectics: competing demands that require different and incompatible responses. For example: You want to feel good, but you don't have the initiative to take part in activities that could be enjoyable. He focuses on the dialectics we respond to with contradictory reactions:
Activity: I don't let my momentary feelings interfere with my long-term plans.
Passivity: When I'm anxious or depressed, I stop and wait for a better day.
If you're depressed, you may be passive out of a sense of incompetence, hopelessness or lack of energy. But sometimes passivity is appropriate, for instance, as a way to tolerate feelings while you wait for a more propitious time to act.
DBT invites you to consider balance and strategy on a continuum at any particular moment. Balance means that your responses aren't always extremes. The strategy is to change your responses along the continuum depending on your goals, not on your mood.
DBT is about learning to regulate and tolerate your feelings, to change your feelings and their intensity and learn how to endure unpleasant feelings when appropriate.
Emotions, Marra emphasizes, just like sight, hearing, taste and touch are a form of information processing vital to our quest for survival. Sometimes our senses fail us. What we thought we saw turns out to be something else. Yet, if our emotions are invalidated, we feel ourselves invalidated. "Feelings," says Marra, "are never wrong. They just are."
With anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, meaning shrinks. We avoid potentially meaningful situations as our interpersonal world shrivels, notes Marra. Depression causes us to question the meaningfulness of our lives. But the engagement in meaningful activities and relationships reduces depression. Marra's asks us to search for the things that are important in our lives:
- What would I miss if it were taken from me?
- Where do I go when I need comfort?
- Does this speak to both my heart and my head?
Mindfulness, an important element of dialectical behavioral therapy, is the ability to improve your observational skills and enhance your interaction with your environment. Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist tradition. Emotional regulation begins with identifying the emotion, what thoughts are accompanying the emotion, what prompted it, what behavior results from it, and what, if any, consequences resulted.
Taking control of your life takes energy, courage, patience, humility and sensitivity, says Marra. But dialectical behavioral therapy is a tool that can bring about improvements to anyone's life.
Depressed and Anxious: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook for Overcoming Depression and Anxiety, Thomas Marra, Ph.D., (2004 New Harbinger Publications Inc) can be used as a self-help tool, or ask your doctor for a recommendation to a DBT therapist or program.