Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, has become a popular psychotherapy treatment model over the last few years as more people are becoming aware of it’s benefits. However, that increase in popularity has also led to some confusion and misconceptions about what DBT is and who it can help. Below are some of the most common myths about participating in DBT:
MYTH: DBT is only for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder.
FACT: DBT has a significant amount of research behind it for not only Borderline Personality Disorder, but multiple disorders. DBT has been shown to be effective for bulimia, binge-eating, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic–stress disorder, and substance abuse. DBT can be helpful for individuals who wish to learn new skills for managing painful emotions and decreasing conflict in relationships.
MYTH: DBT takes too much time.
FACT: While it’s true that DBT may take more time than traditional psychotherapy, it is a lot less time than other more intense treatment options such as day treatment or inpatient stays. Additionally, the time in treatment is likely less than the time each week spent dealing with emotional problems, chaotic relationships, or difficult behaviors.
MYTH: DBT is a suicide prevention program.
FACT: DBT is not a suicide prevention program, but rather a life enhancement program. For many people who have considered it, suicide seems one way out of intense misery and suffering. DBT emphasizes the alternative is to make a life worth living. Although suicide and self-harm are always targeted as part of treatment, the goal of DBT is not to stop behaviors that bother others, but to help the individual build a life that is meaningful to them.
MYTH: DBT can’t help me because nothing else has.
FACT: Many clients who come to DBT have had limited success in other therapies. This is usually because the other therapies did not effectively treat the skills deficits that lead to their difficulties. DBT posits that “insight” alone does not sufficiently address reasons for the individual’s distress and problem behaviors . DBT combines insight with new skills, structured sessions to learn how to implement those skills, and phone coaching to help generalize those skills to all relevant areas in the person’s life.
MYTH: I will have to be in DBT forever.
FACT: DBT is a recovery based treatment. This means that a DBT therapist will work with the individual on building a life that doesn’t require you to be in DBT or any other treatment. The skills and strategies taught in DBT are designed to help people cope with multiple and varied life problems. Most clients who graduate from DBT go on to live very meaningful lives with much reduced suffering.
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Becca Edwards-Powell, MSW, LCSW