Lone woman looking down surrounded by stormy clouds and grey skies suggesting torment or upset

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington. It is a specific type of psychotherapy used to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), and other closely associated conditions.

Many people eventually turn to DBT for addiction issues, bipolar or depression, having tried other treatments first, but BPD remains the primary reason for a therapist to use DBT.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and How Can Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) Help?

BPD is a little-known mental health condition which many local health services struggle to provide for. Symptoms can include self-destructive urges and behaviour (such as self-harm, substance abuse or risk-taking), suicidal ideation, emotional outbursts and turbulent personal relationships.

Unlike more widely-known mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders, it can be hard to find specialist individual or group therapy for BPD in your area, yet talking therapy is an essential part of managing BPD. In fact, many patients with BPD aren’t required to take anti-depressants or mood stabilising medication, making it all the more important to see a psychologist for treatment.

If you’ve been diagnosed with BPD and don’t know where to turn, help is at hand. Christine Tizzard Psychology can provide outpatient group Dialectical Behavioural Therapy for the treatment of enduring mental health difficulties. Some clients choose to have individual DBT, but either option is a possibility; we cover a wide variety of locations in South East England and further afield.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) versus traditional CBT

DBT is a specific type of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), so it focuses on the role of cognition (your thoughts and beliefs) and behaviours (your actions) in the development and treatment of BPD. DBT includes some changes to traditional CBT, to help specifically reduce symptoms of BPD or a similar condition:

  • Whilst both CBT and DBT focus on changing your behaviours and thought patterns, DBT also emphasises the need to accept yourself and the intense emotions you feel. Having BPD often means you’ve developed coping strategies that are harmful or destructive, such as self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse or suicide attempts, whereas DBT will tackle those self-sabotaging behaviours.
  • You will learn to develop distress tolerance and emotional resilience, which is essential for daily life. A client having CBT may be normally resilient but suffering from particular trauma or difficult life circumstances, whereas a client with BPD will typically have low distress tolerance and feel emotions more keenly than those around them. Learning to distract yourself in a healthy way, put things in perspective and self-sooth through DBT can all help to manage your condition.
  • People with BPD tend to have very intense or heightened relationships with friends, family and partners, as they fear rejection, criticism or disapproval. DBT involves regulating those relationships, making you less dependent on others.
  • Whereas CBT can be very short-term if required, and doesn’t always include ‘homework’ between sessions, DBT is more of a long-term commitment with regular ‘homework’ tasks, such as keeping a diary.
  • CBT can incorporate mindfulness if appropriate, but DBT uses mindfulness more heavily as a strategy for day-to-day living.
  • In the words of Dr. Marsha Linehan: “For low-level, non-serious stuff, you would never need DBT – there are plenty of good treatments for that. DBT’s real strength is when you have really serious emotional dysregulation, or high-risk, difficult to treat, multiple diagnoses.”

DBT Treatment for BPD and Other Conditions

Should you be seeking DBT in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Kent and beyond, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for an initial consultation. We can assess whether DBT is right for you, and if it should be combined with other therapies or strategies to maximise your progress.