Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) emphasizes acceptance of self amidst the necessity for change. DBT therapists communicate to clients that they are both acceptable as they are and also that their behaviors, including those that are self-harming, or self-destructive make real sense in some way. Also, DBT therapists convey to clients that their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are “perfectly normal”, given the circumstances of their lives.

However, with this acceptance of the origins of the current suffering and the behaviors that continue to give rise to the suffering, the emphasis in DBT is nonetheless focused on facilitating change.Thus, imbedded in the therapy, are acceptance and change.

DBT helps clients create change by teaching skills such as a mindfulness practice or challenging long-held beliefs (about self, others or the world). The goal of these changes is to help the client to build a life that is not mired in suffering. Finally, DBT acknowledges that our lives are complex and oftentimes contradictory. For example, we can be making amazing progress in one area of our lives, only to feel that we are falling apart in other areas.

This “dialectic” between opposites is accepted as a condition of being alive in DBT, such that clients learn to view the “negatives” as part of the whole, despite the presence of many “positives”. We are wired to pay attention to “negatives”, so much so that we tend to believe that the “negatives” are our reality. When we train our minds to pay attention in a different way—to all of our experiences—our notions of reality shift along with our attention. For many, this shift in awareness can be life-changing.

For more information on DBT, visit Behavioral Tech, LLC (Marsha Linehan’s DBT portal)