I am currently delving into the world of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) by reading the book Depressed and Anxious by Thomas Marra. I’ll admit I am struggling to slog through the many, many exercises, but I make slow progress. Based on what actually gets read, I am clearly more drawn to Buddhist teachers such as Pema Chödrön and Brad Warner, but the idea behind DBT is intriguing. Probably that’s why I breezed right through reading chapter one, which is all about what DBT is. I do love a good idea. Practice can be a bit more challenging. Who’s with me on that?
Anyway, my therapist sold me on the concept of DBT by describing it as a cross between cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and Zen. The former I’m ho-hum about, but Zen study has been a great help to me. Maybe the addition of Zen ideas would spark some life into CBT.
DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD in the 1970s to treat borderline personality disorder. Dr. Linehan noticed that the popular CBT method was not working for these individuals, so she added in some validation techniques and the idea of dialectics. You can read a whole lot more about it’s origins and what it is here.
In his book, Mr. Marra defines DBT this way:
In dialectical behavior therapy the “dialectics” address conflicting demands and wants, and “behavior” refers to having strategic goals you constantly compare with your actions. DBT is thus a process to use your feelings to obtain your goals in spite of severe obstacles.
My take so far is that DBT is asking you to look at certain types of opposing behaviors, say transparency and privacy, and see them as a continuum upon which you may fall anywhere at any given time. The challenge is to examine where you fall and determine if that is helping you reach your goal(s), and if not then work to change where you fall. I’ve filled out a lot of continuums with little check marks and thought about things I like or dislike about each end of those continuums, but so far I am yet to actually figure out how this helpful. I’m hoping later chapters expound upon that. Based on their titles it seems likely.
Has anyone else found DBT helpful? I’d love to hear about your experiences with it.
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