Dialectical Behaviour Therapy in Ireland

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a treatment programme aimed at helping people with ongoing difficulties managing intense emotions.

Problems in regulating emotions can lead to considerable mental health difficulties such as increased risk of clinical depression, anxiety, deliberate self-harm and suicide and DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) teaches people skills to deal with their intense emotions.

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a treatment programme aimed at helping people with ongoing difficulties to manage intense emotions. Problems in regulating emotions can lead to considerable mental health difficulties such as increased risk of clinical depression, anxiety, deliberate self-harm and suicide and DBT teaches people skills to deal with their intense emotions.

DBT is an evidence based treatment which is typically provided within Community Mental Health Services in Ireland. Individuals referred to DBT programmes may have received a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD). Emotion dysregulation is the core feature of these presentations. Emotion dysregulation often results in other forms of dysregulation including behaviour, cognitive, self, and interpersonal dysregulation.

DBT was originally developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. in 1993, as an alternative treatment for individuals for whom other therapies may not have been effective. More than 20 years of worldwide research have supported this approach. Over time, DBT has been adapted to treat a range of disorders with similar difficulties such as eating disorders and substance dependence.

In this video, Dr. Marsha Linehan talks to Daniel Flynn about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy:

DBT is suitable for adults and adolescents. This clip provides more information on the structure of a DBT programme for young people:

The main philosophy of DBT is to create ‘a life worth living’.
This philosophy is characterised by balancing the need to become aware of and accept things in life that you can’t change, while simultaneously working on the things which you can change to improve your emotional wellbeing and overall quality of life. ‘Dialectic’ means to examine, discuss and reconcile opposing ideas. The dialectic in this approach is that change can only begin to happen when you accept things as they are, yet accepting things as they are often requires us to change.
There are a number of primary aims of DBT.
These are to decrease:
• Suicidal and life-threatening behaviours
• Therapy interfering behaviours
• Quality-of-life interfering behaviours

And to increase:
• Core mindfulness
• Interpersonal effectiveness
• Emotion regulation
• Distress tolerance
• Self-management
DBT outlines a number of assumptions that need to be shared and understood by both the person attending for treatment and the DBT therapist.
Some of these assumptions include:
• People are doing the best they can
• People want to improve
• People need to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change
• People must learn new behaviours in all relevant contexts e.g. social, occupational and vocational
• People may not have caused all of their own problems, but they have to solve them anyway
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