How NYC Dialectical Behavior Therapy Helps Patients Recover From Destructive Lives

By Joyce Sanders

There have always been members in any society that display behaviour that are deemed destructive and disruptive. Many of these people are suicidal, others harm themselves regularly and many others suffer from severe mood disorders. Unfortunately, society often shun these sufferers, thinking them mad or anti social. It is true, however, that they can be diagnosed and treated. In NYC dialectical behavior therapy has helped many mentally ill patients to once again enjoy life.

This treatment techniques was first developed by Marsha Linehan from the University of Washington. Its original purpose was to treat people with borderline personality disorders and those that are chronically suicidal. It soon became clear, however, that the techniques could also be used in the treatment of many other disorders, including eating and mood disorders. Survivors of sexual abuse and those inclined to harm themselves have also been treated successfully.

DBT is a fusion of standard cognitive techniques that are used to help patients regulate their emotions. However, these techniques are augmented by further methods derived from meditative Buddhist practices. Patients are introduced to the concepts of distress tolerance, mental awareness and acceptance. Clinical tests have shown that this combination of treatment techniques produce extremely positive results with fewer patients attempting suicide or self harm and a much lower drop out rate from treatment programs.

There are two main components to a DBT treatment program. The first is individual psychotherapy sessions once a week. During these sessions the patient is taught techniques to help him take control of his emotional state, to react to stressful situations in a positive manner and to devise ways in which to make life worth living. Patients are also encouraged to examine the causes of the destructive behavioural patterns.

The second components of DBT is weekly group sessions. Sessions generally last two and a half hours. Patients are encouraged to interact with each other and to share their emotions. Patients are also equipped with skills on coping with coping with distress, regulating and controlling their emotions and how to face reality. A high emphasis is also placed on teaching patients to develop effective interpersonal skills.

Treatment programs are not scheduled for specific periods. Each patient progress at the pace that is comfortable to him. Typically, however, patients need to be part of a formal treatment program for at least six months. In some cases it can be significantly longer, especially if the patient is not motivated to succeed. Patients that recognize the fact that they have a problem progress much quicker.

DBT has some critics too. They say that therapists design their programs to deal with a single disorder. This will not produce results, they say, because most patients suffer from a number of disorders that must all be treated simultaneously. Critics also lament the fact that no research is conducted to follow up the progress of patients that have completed treatment programs.

People suffering from mental disorders used be be scorned by society. They were described as mad, disturbed or plain stupid. Thankfully, programs such as DBT can help such patients to regain fulfilling and productive lives.

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