DEMYSTIFYING THERAPY: DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY.


I have been devoting all my time towards studying different aspects of Psychology including the different forms of therapies that are now used to treat clients struggling with any form of mental illness. We all are aware of the most common form of therapy known as cognitive behavioural therapy which is solely focused on restructuring the client’s negative thought patterns to make them feel less depressed and more positive. CBT is used to treat almost every disorder or illness – but we fail to realize the importance of other forms of therapy. This article solely focuses on a form of therapy known as Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. I had briefly studied this in university but never really dived into it at a deeper level – I never believed that it could have such a great impact on individuals overall so I decided to reach a point to know what and how it made an impact. 


Dialectical Behavioural Therapy fully emerged in the 1980s and was founded or introduced by a famous and very well-known Psychologist named Marsha M. Linehan. Before we go onto what the therapy focuses on, I want to mention a few lines about Marsha M. Linehan. I had heard this name previously while studying for my examinations but never really acknowledged it at a deeper level but I am so glad I did. Marsha M. Linehan’s sole purpose to introduce DBT came from her own inspiring story – the difficult times she faced as a teenager, the trauma, the environment she was brought up in (her struggles) is what led her to want to become a Psychologist – the need to help people get out of their own hell the way she did and it’s ironic because just a couple of months ago, I was questioning my capability of becoming a Psychologist but what drove me to the subject was the same exact motive – to help other people, to make them happier, to lessen the sadness we are surrounded with so I could resonate with her story deeply. Knowing about the Psychologist makes you feel more connected to the topic being discussed. 


Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is a form of therapy that is focused on treating individuals with dysfunctional patterns of behaviour – mostly oriented towards those struggling with borderline personality disorder as well as highly suicidal people. However, it is imperative to know that this form of therapy can be used by all individuals for them to live more fulfilling and emotionally stable lives – so you and I both can practice DBT and live happier and healthier lives. Doesn’t that want to make you know more? DBT is a program of self-improvement, an action-oriented theory. It revolves around the idea of how everyone should be effective in whatever it is that they decide to do – being effective is the road to success – it’s simple. Now you’re wondering what makes DBT so different from other forms of therapies? In most cases, when the client’s problems become too complex to handle and the task of treating the patient becomes emotionally exhausting – they decide to no longer work with the client (in most cases) but on the contrary, DBT is just the opposite – it puts huge emphasis against terminating therapy because of the client’s problems, this is how therapist using DBT as a form of treatment perceive a situation: if a client verbally attacks them, they know that is the reason the client needs therapy, not the reason that they will stop working with the client – it goes against that norm which is WHAT makes it stand out. DBT consists of various skills that fall under it – I’ll mention a few which most of us can use in our daily lives (understand and try implementing in your day to day situations, you will see a change). Every time we don’t feel in control of our emotions, we can refer to a concept known as TIP skills (Temperance manipulation, intense exercise, paced breathing and paired muscle relaxation), these skills are used when people are experiencing extreme distress – it helps change the body chemistry in a way that reduces emotional arousal. The two recommended are paced breathing and intense exercise which most of us are already aware – these techniques help you feel more in control of yourself. 


Most of us struggle with achieving our desired goals and our Mental Health plays an extremely important role in this area – focusing on this aspect, Marsha M. Linehan introduced another skill under DBT which helps an individual effectively achieve their desired goals – this skill was known as DEAR MAN (Describe, Express Clearly, Assert, Reinforce, (Stay) Mindful, Appear confident and Negotiate. I feel like for the general population – knowing about this skill and applying it to your life can change a lot of perspectives and pathways. 


  • Describe: Begin by briefly describing the situation you are reacting to. This makes you aware of the events that led to your situation. 

  • Express Clearly: Clearly express how you feel and what you believe about a situation. Another individual can’t read your mind and neither can you expect them to. 

  • Assertive: This merely implies to not beat around the bush but instead be clear, concise, and assertive towards what you want to say or what you believe. 

  • Reinforce: Explain to the other person that they will too benefit from what you are asking for or saying and follow this with genuine appreciation. (Builds and strengths connections).

  • (Stay) Mindful: Be persistent in accordance to what you are asking for, saying, or need help with – avoid getting distracted or diverted by other topics at hand. 

  • Appear Confident: Implement a confident tone of voice, a stronger physical posture. Don’t stammer or look down making it seem like you’re not sure when you already know what you want. It’s normal to feel nervous in difficult situations but it’s almost important to remember that being nervous can hold you back from achieving your desired goal. 

  • Negotiate: Be willing to give to get. 

Being an individual who used to fall into the mindset of not being able to express the way I felt, not facing my situations head-on, to agree with other people even if I believed what they were saying differed from my own beliefs led me to feel emotionally exhausted but DBT challenges you to overcome each and everything that holds you back – even if it’s slow, it works and eventually it becomes a way of life. 

A lot of us are unaware of the real story behind a form of treatment, the life-changing impacts, and the positives it can lead to, and as a budding Psychologist, I believed it was imperative to share the importance of a practice which can improve and rebuild lives. 


I’d like to end this with the positive words of Marsha M. Linehan with the hope that it inspires others just as much as it inspired me: 


“My story is a story about bold faith and how important luck can be. It is a story of never giving up. It is a story of failure after failure but of somehow always getting up again and again, and carrying on. It is a story of persistence, and acceptance – a big part of DBT is saying yes”. 


Written by: Antara Jain

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