What is dialectic in DBT?

What is DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)? What is a dialectic?

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy (we realize it’s a mouthful)….so let’s try to put words to help explain as it’s not something only for clinicians and therapists to “get.”   DBT is really about a way of life, a way of looking at and experiencing life deeply, accepting “what is” and learning to build tolerance and resiliency for things that we do not have any control over – which is just about everything, isn’t it?

DBT combines cognitive-behavior therapy (being at choice as to how we think and act), with the concepts of distress tolerance (learning to bear pain skillfully), radical acceptance (a Buddhist concept about being willing to participate with life as it is) and mindful awareness, or finding a way to effectively engage with the present moment.

What’s dialectics about?

Dialectics is how we reason. A dialectic is when we have two feelings, urges, thoughts that are competing, or in conflict, or in opposition to one another.  This black and white thinking increases anxiety, depression, urges or feelings to do something, or think of something, usually with a negative outcome.

Instead of having a thought like;

“I had a really hard time with that exam.”

We think something like this:

“I did horribly on that test and I am a failure in school.”

When we have thoughts like this one we can become paralyzed with anxiety and fear and can engage in behaviors that just make things worse.

Principals of DBT help us think about a difficult situation as just that, a difficult situation.  Not a testimonial on the rest of our life.   It teaches us to deal with disappointment and stress skillfully while trusting in the next moment, something new can emerge.  DBT can teach us that we can go beyond right and wrong and good and bad and learn from the effects of our thoughts and behaviors and create a life worth living.

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