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Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) has been proven to be very effective for treating depression and anxiety, yet many sufferers have never heard of it! In this article, we uncover all you need to know about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and help you learn whether it could be the right therapy for you.

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)? 

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) first developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and was found to be very effective in this area. However, it was soon discovered that Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is also very helpful in treating depression and anxiety, and other emotional and mental health concerns. 

While counselling, or ‘talking therapy’ can be very helpful for many sufferers of depression and anxiety, for some, a different and more specialised approach is more effective. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a comprehensive therapy that combines the theories behind Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Acceptance-Based Therapy with techniques like mindfulness. It teaches new coping skills that help those experiencing depression or anxiety, and can be really helpful for those who’ve found other treatments (including medication) less helpful than they’d hoped. 

How was Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) developed?

DBT was first developed by cognitive behavioural psychologist, Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. Whilst working with patients suffering from chronic suicidal tendencies and self-harming behaviour, Dr. Linehan found that CBT alone wasn’t always effective. In her work with patients living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), she found that many often felt misunderstood, invalidated, or acted out with anger during treatment. A number of her patients dropped out of treatment altogether. In an effort to better treat these patients, she went on to develop a form of therapy that not only treated the symptoms of BPD, depression, and anxiety, but also offered both validation and acceptance to these patients. 

Dr. Linehan found a remarkable difference in treating patients through this approach, as validating their experiences was key to helping people express themselves and discover acceptance. In fact, acceptance of painful or troubling thoughts and emotions is key to DBT. Rather than trying to push these thoughts and feelings away or develop avoidant behaviours, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy aims to help sufferers to accept these distressing things, making it much more possible to work towards positive change.  

How does DBT work for depression and anxiety? 

Those who suffer from depression and anxiety often develop a whole host of behaviours and thought patterns to avoid or push away painful thoughts and feelings. This is completely normal (although problematic) and is a coping mechanism that sufferers often develop without even realising it. It’s the mind and body’s way of trying to protect us from invasive thoughts and feelings that might cause us pain. For sufferers of depression and anxiety, these thoughts can be so pervasive and persistent that their whole lives become a juggling act, trying to dodge painful thoughts and feelings, whilst doing their best to manage day-to-day life and responsibilities. This juggling act puts a huge amount of stress and strain on the mind and body. It’s no wonder those who live with depression and/or anxiety often feel so exhausted! Thankfully, DBT is a very effective in these areas, and could be just what you need, if you’re someone who suffers from depression or anxiety (or both!). 

DBT is a very structured type of therapy and focuses on teaching skills in either individual or group settings, and even sometimes during phone coaching. Administered by a trained professional, DBT works to build acceptance of troubling thoughts and feelings, train you in healthy and effective coping strategies, and helps you to gain skills in areas that support your healing, such as: 

  • Building self-esteem 
  • Increasing interpersonal effectiveness 
  • Regulating painful thoughts and emotions 
  • Tolerating and accepting moments of emotional distress
  • Developing skills like mindfulness to help ground you in the present moment

Each of these skills not only helps to tackle depression and anxiety, but is useful in daily life and can be used for the rest of your life. DBT is a great therapy for anyone experiencing any kind of emotional or mental health concern, whether it’s low self-esteem, stress, depression, anxiety, binge eating, substance abuse, addiction, and others.  It can help to reduce and even eliminate self-harm and self-harming thoughts, reduce suicidal tendencies, and more. In fact, DBT can completely change your life, whether you suffer from depression, anxiety, or something you can’t quite put your finger on. 

How does Dialectical Behaviour Therapy treat depression and anxiety? 

Overcoming symptoms of depression and anxiety can be extremely challenging, as overwhelming feelings of emotional pain make getting help seem very difficult. DBT helps sufferers to better accept troubling thoughts and feelings, and become a master over them. In mastering these thoughts and feelings, and in learning that YOU are the key to your own recovery, motivation to make changes comes much more easily. Those who undertake DBT for depression and anxiety find that they are empowered by the therapy, becoming the new boss of their mind and body – rather than depression and anxiety holding the reigns. The types of symptoms that DBT can help with include: 

  • Lack of motivation 
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Chronic sadness and stress
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Poor memory 
  • Physical signs of depression such as body aches, pains, headaches, and tiredness 

Is DBT for you?

Treating depression and anxiety with DBT can be very effective, but changes and improvements are gradual. For most people that suffer from depression or anxiety, DBT is an excellent therapy to undertake, but is most effective when combined with other therapies from a trained professional. Here at Integrated Health Specialists, our philosophy is a holistic one, and we believe in treating the WHOLE person, not just their condition. We offer judgement-free treatment in the form of counselling and psychology, and combine these therapies with DBT to offer a comprehensive treatment that builds skills for life. To find out more about DBT, our Gold Coast counselling and psychology services, and how they can help you, book an appointment with us today.

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen