Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT for short, is a skills-based form of therapy that has proven to be effective in individuals with depression. For those who feel they still haven’t found the right fit, it may be time to try a new therapy style like DBT.

How does DBT help with depression? Let’s break it down.

What is DBT?

DBT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches acceptance of unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The point is to accept them at face-value (without judgement) so they seem more possible to overcome. 

This does not mean that people should accept these behaviors as part of who they are. Rather, you should see them for what they are: self-destructive habits that require changing to live a healthy, authentic life. 

Overcoming the way you think, feel, and act can feel like a pretty tall order. That’s why DBT helps to break down the process into more digestible pieces. 

Instead of thinking, “Why did I have to do that? I’m such a failure,” you can instead think, “That happened because I’m depressed. I’m allowed to be depressed, and it’s going to take some time to heal. But I need to work on overcoming this behavior or allow these negative thoughts. Those are unhealthy for me.”

Suddenly, an out-of-control emotional breakdown becomes smaller, focused, and instantly more manageable. 

DBT Skills Training

DBT focuses on four key skills to develop. They are…

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Distress Tolerance Skills
  3. Emotional Regulation
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness

Mindfulness is the ability to tune into the present moment and your own thoughts without passing judgement. Meditation is a great way to accomplish this, and you can do it by sitting in a room and focusing on your breathing, or you can try it while walking the neighborhood. 

Find things to notice as you walk—the feel of the ground under your shoes, the temperature, the odd shape of the clouds, etc. Focusing on the environment around you helps to calm your brain and silence racing thoughts.

Distress tolerance skills are meant to help people get through stressful or catastrophic events without turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like self-harm or substance abuse. Some popular distress tolerance skills include weighing the pros and cons of a situation, practicing radical acceptance (“it is what it is” thinking), or distraction.

Depending on the severity of the situation, you can distract yourself by reading a book, playing a video game, or physically leaving the location to call a friend or go on a run. The point is to give your working memory a break from processing heavy information until you calm down.

Emotional regulation asks you to identify the source of an emotion as realistically as you can, then re-evaluate how you reacted to it. As you get better at identifying the triggers to your emotions, you get better at reacting appropriately and with more logic.

Interpersonal effectiveness has to do with navigating social situations effectively. It asks how often you’re able to accomplish social goals due to the behaviors you exhibit. 

The quality of our relationships directly affects our well-being by impacting self-esteem and identity, so having good interpersonal effectiveness can help reduce depressive episodes.

You can improve your interpersonal effectiveness by practicing active listening, checking in with your body language, and honestly examining your own strengths and weaknesses.

DBT and Depression

While DBT wasn’t originally created for depression, its core premise has proven to be effective for people with it. The skill-development nature of DBT gives patients a goal to work toward, helping them create a more positive outlook for themselves. It also focuses on validation and tolerating stressful situations, two things that depressed people tend to struggle with. 

The key to overcoming depression is building an arsenal of coping mechanisms that breaks the cycle of overly critical thinking. DBT is full of coping mechanisms that ask you to face the negative aspects of your life head-on and with acceptance, so that you may ultimately overcome them.

To get started with your DBT journey, reach out to one of our counselors today.

Click here for more information on Depression Treatment.