When It Is Used
Traditionally, the first patients to undergo dialectical behavior therapy were individuals with borderline personality disorder. Over the last three decades, the therapy has evolved, and it is now successfully used in the treatment of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and several other mental health issues. In particular, dialectical behavior therapy may be especially suited to patients experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, the therapy is beneficial when it is used for patients exhibiting signs of any mental health issues involving self-destructive behavior. For example, patients struggling with alcohol or substance abuse or other addictions may wish to try this form of therapy. It may also help patients who struggle with self-harm, smoking, binge eating disorder, or suicidal thoughts.
What Patients Can Expect
Generally, what patients can expect when undergoing dialectical behavior therapy is to participate in a combination of classroom and individual therapy sessions. During classroom sessions, patients role-play various scenarios to learn healthy methods of interacting with others. Homework assignments and worksheets are also used to help patients learn new behavior patterns. Individual therapy sessions are private sessions with a patient and a professional therapist. These sessions help the patient reinforce the healthy behaviors they learn in group sessions by providing personalized advice on how they might adapt and apply these healthy behaviors to their unique life challenges.
Patients involved in this form of therapy also have access to coaching over the phone. They can call their therapist if they are experiencing a particularly difficult day or crisis moment, and the therapist will provide advice on how to handle that and support the patient through the experience. For patients who have particularly complex situations, the individual therapist may consult with other therapists who form part of a consultation team for suggestions on how to effectively help the patient.
Effectiveness As A Therapy
Due to its combination of several psychotherapy approaches, dialectical behavior therapy has shown particular effectiveness as a therapy. The unique approach has helped many patients with serious conditions that could not be effectively treated with other approaches. The therapy is particularly effective in helping patients curb or eliminate serious self-destructive behaviors that can result in injury, including self-harm, suicidal thoughts or actions, and addiction to and misuse of prescription and recreational drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
Patients with several types of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and other non-specified eating disorders generally have some form of dialectical behavior therapy in both outpatient care and residential treatment facilities. The therapy is also used in residential treatment centers for those struggling with addiction.