What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?
DBT is a relatively new form of therapy, developed in 1980 by Dr. Marsha Linehan, ABBA a psychologist and researcher who is currently at the University of Washington. Although DBT was created to more effectively treat Borderline Personality Disorder it has been clinically proven to treat depression, drug and alcohol problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), binge-eating disorder, survivors of sexual abuse, and other mood disorders, as well as effectively treating specific symptoms and behaviors associated with spectrum mood disorders, including self-injury. [Citations 6-13] DBT is essentially a fusion of traditional Cognitive Behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and skill building. DBT focuses on building and strengthening emotional regulation skills, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.
Is there hope for those with Borderline Personality Disorder?
In spite of the enormous amount of stigma that exists surrounding BPD both in popular culture and in the mental health practitioner community, BPD is highly treatable. Some advocates and researchers have suggested that the less stigmatizing term “emotional sensitivity disorder” replace “borderline personality disorder” because those who have BPD have a heightened response to emotions. Others have suggested that BPD is actually Complex PTSD since many people who have been diagnosed with BPD have a history of childhood trauma. While it is not easy to learn how to change behavior and adopt new behaviors in the place of harmful ones, BPD is at its heart a lack of the skills necessary to process and react to emotions in a way that it socially acceptable and safe for the person experiencing the overwhelming emotions. People often vilify those with BPD especially those who have had a negative romantic relationship with someone who has either has BPD or they have decided has BPD. You can find many disheartening things on the internet with a simple google search of “borderline personality disorder.” While people with BPD often hurt those around them, they are hurting even more because they do not know that it is possible to learn emotional regulation skills.
I highly recommend the memoir Loud in the House of Myself by Stacy Pershall to anyone who is looking for hope for recovery from BPD for themselves or a loved one. Stacy is a wonderful example of someone who is living well in recovery and she credits DBT with saving her life. Her story is one of extremes, both high and low, and truly comforting to anyone who too has ever felt like a “strange girl” as she describes herself.
Stacey Aldridge, LCSW is a therapist in the Jackson, MS area.
She treats adults and adolescents with depression, anxiety, and chronic illness.
She has had training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).