What is Mental Health Treatment?November 12, 2018
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Mental health treatment can encompass numerous types of therapy methods that help individuals manage their daily symptoms. Any mental health disorder can be debilitating enough to prevent the individual from maintaining a normal daily routine. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to help people with mental illness cope with their symptoms and regain control over their lives, one of them being dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This type of psychotherapy helps patients find balance with opposing views in their lives. Originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD), today, DBT can effectively treat people with multiple different mental illnesses.1 If you’re considering getting help for yourself or a loved one, keep reading to learn more about the benefits of DBT.
What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a form of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that uses two major techniques to help patients accept and control their emotions to better change their actions. Based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), DBT has been used to help people who experience emotions intensely and how their emotions coincide with their thoughts and behaviors since it was developed in the 1970s by American psychologist Marsha Linehan. The word “dialectical” means combining opposite ideas. DBT focuses on helping the individual accept the reality of their lives and their actions, as well as helping them learn how to change their lives, starting with unhelpful behaviors. DBT is used to treat various mental health disorders, including:
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder and bulimia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance use disorder
- Suicidal behavior
How DBT WorksDBT utilizes acceptance techniques to help patients comprehend why they engage in certain behaviors, and change techniques help patients replace these negative behaviors with more constructive ones. DBT teaches patients that they must accept and come to terms with uncomfortable thoughts and find productive ways to change these thoughts. DBT doesn’t shame patients for experiencing these thoughts or emotions. Rather it reminds clients that it’s okay to feel extreme emotions that are negative or dark because they have the power to combat them with positive change. Patients will learn new coping skills, as well as mindfulness practices, that they can engage in after treatment. The main goal of DBT therapists is to help patients find a balance between acceptance of who they are and their challenges and the benefits of change. While the structure of dialectical behavior therapy sessions varies from therapist to therapist, DBT generally utilizes these four types of sessions:
- DBT pre-assessment: This is done before the individual begins treatment to help therapists determine whether DBT is a suitable form of therapy.
- Individual therapy: Individual DBT therapy involves weekly sessions that last about 40 minutes to 60 minutes.
- Skills training in groups: These sessions focus on teaching patients skills in a group setting. Some of these skills include mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.
- Telephone crisis coaching: This is a service offered in DBT to support patients in their day-to-day lives. This means they can call their therapists at certain times for support between sessions.
DBT Benefits for Mental HealthThe mental health field boasts of the many benefits of dialectical behavior therapy for people with various mental health disorders. Especially for people with borderline personality disorder, the benefits of DBT therapy include:
- Access to support outside of rehab
- Fewer days of inpatient hospitalization
- Improved depressive symptoms
- Improved relationships
- Increased mindfulness
- Increased self-worth and self-respect
- Less self-harm behavior and anger
- Opportunity to learn and practice skills in a safe and supportive environment
- Reduced risk of drug and alcohol abuse
Who Is DBT Good For?DBT is good for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders. DBT has also been demonstrated to be effective in helping people with problems like:
- Overwhelming emotions
- Impulsive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
- Negative relationships filled with conflict or arguments