My Experience with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is one of the most common treatments for borderline personality disorder (BPD). I experienced a six-month group course of DBT a few years ago and learned many skills that I still use today.
My Experience with DBT, Challenging and Beneficial
The Benefits of DBT
The most beneficial DBT unit for me was distress tolerance. It taught me how to ride my waves of emotions without completely losing control. This was essential because I was still self-harming and struggling with alcohol abuse at the time. However, in the course, we all committed to trying to stop our harmful coping mechanisms and replace them with better alternatives. For example, I learned to grab ice from the freezer instead of hurting myself.
I also took a lot of key lessons from the emotional regulation unit. It opened my eyes to examining my emotional processes, identifying when I was becoming emotionally stimulated, and the different ways that I could choose to respond. One of the most valuable tasks we did was identify our core values and brainstorm ways to incorporate them into our daily lives. In my course, the concept of "making a life worth living" was a central component and one that helped me feel more excited about my life.
Overall, I enjoyed DBT because it helped me to feel more positive about my condition. I could see that I was not alone in my experiences and that there were tested methods for overcoming some BPD symptoms. The course taught me new skills and emphasized doing activities that I enjoyed to gain a new appreciation for my life.
The Challenges of DBT
I started group DBT when I was at one of the low points in my life. It was only a few months after my BPD diagnosis, and I didn't yet have many coping skills to handle my mood swings and other symptoms. It was also a time when I struggled with deep depression and found it hard to motivate myself. Therefore, dragging myself to a DBT class every week was often a challenge. I missed around 30 percent of the classes because I didn't have the energy or drive to make myself go.
Some people may find it challenging to do group DBT because you have to speak about your experiences before virtual strangers. I have never minded sharing with strangers because they don't affect my general life, but I sometimes felt myself making internal comparisons. In some ways, this was motivating because it pushed me to do my weekly homework exercises, but I also worried that I wasn't doing as well as others.
I also found the mindfulness exercises challenging. DBT has an entire mindfulness unit and also has the skills built into the other sections of the course. I have a busy mind that is constantly problem-solving, ruminating, and jumping between different ideas, so I find it particularly difficult to quiet those processes and focus on one thing at a time.
Overall, the benefits of DBT far outweighed the challenges that I faced. I want to complete another course in the future to solidify and re-learn the essential skills.
Have you ever done group or individual DBT? Did you find it helpful to learn new coping skills? What challenges did you face?
Beveridge, K. (2021, June 7). My Experience with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2021/6/my-experience-with-dialectical-behavior-therapy-dbt