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DBT is Too Complicated: A Common Misconception about Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Christy Matta, M.A.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is becoming increasingly widespread and research continues to suggest that it is an effective treatment with a broad range of problems. Therapists, treatment providers and individual's continue to seek out DBT in order to alleviate severe and debilitating emotional and behavioral problems.

ball of stringHowever, as people hear about DBT and consider entering treatment, some worry about what the treatment will require. One common misconception about DBT and entering into DBT treatment is that it will be complicated.

DBT as Simple

DBT has specific methods for structuring both individual therapy and skills group. Having therapy and group sessions clearly structured can make following and adhering to the treatment significantly easier. The focus of therapy sessions is clearly defined. Both you and your therapist know the focus of each session and what you're trying to achieve. The goals and strategies used in DBT are clearly explained in the beginning of treatment and you're not left in the dark. The skills taught in DBT give you well defined and concrete options for solving problems in your life.

DBT as Complex

As I mentioned above, there are skills taught for the different problems you face. In fact, there are skills for dealing with a crisis, balancing sleep and eating, solving problems, sticking up for yourself, listening to others, focusing attention and describing your thoughts, to name a few. DBT is abundant with skills, each aimed at helping you manage a very specific problem. In order to utilize these skills effectively, you must understand, practice and internalize them well enough to choose and use the one that best fits the situation, which can feel complicated.

The dialectic in DBT is that it is both simple and complex. It offers specific skills and strategies that can help improve your life and reduce intense and painful emotions. However, learning the skills requires practice and focus and applying the skills in everyday situations can be difficult.

Both the simplicity and complexity of DBT offer benefits. The simplicity of specific things to do in moments of crisis and emotional pain can be reassuring and calming. The complexity of a treatment that draws from a wide range of strategies means that you won't get a one-size-fits-all treatment experience. You and your therapist can work together in ways that specifically work for you. If you're considering DBT treatment, don't let fears that it will be too complex or difficult keep you from exploring whether it is a treatment that will work for you.