A DBT Therapist Shares Their Favorite DBT Skill for Treating Mood Disorders
A popular therapeutic technique for treating a variety of mood disorders, among other things, is Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT. At Move Forward, we have several counselors trained in DBT who regularly use it to help clients improve their lives and relationships.
DBT focuses on teaching clients skills in four main areas — mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. In short, DBT teaches clients how to live in the moment, manage emotions and decrease conflict with others.
All the skills that are taught in this type of therapy are important and have their place, but one of the favorites of Move Forward’s counselors is teaching clients to master mindfulness.
Learning to Be Present
Mindfulness is the act of being present. It is about focusing your attention on the here and now rather than the past or the future. In DBT clients are taught to focus on what is going on around them. They are taught to notice how they feel inside and out. What sounds are they hearing? How does the carpet feel under their feet? The shirt on their arms, etc. They will learn how to pay attention to what is going on inside of them in a non-judgmental way— their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses.
Learning to incorporate mindfulness daily can help people to stay calm and avoid engaging in negative thought patterns or impulsive behavior.
Getting Started with Mindfulness
Mindfulness may sound easy, but it can be difficult to train your brain to be mindful regularly. All too often we don’t even notice what is happening around us. Have you ever driven somewhere and not remembered the drive? Or had a conversation and could not remember what the other person said? When is the last time you truly looked at a person when they were talking to you, fully taking in the way they looked? When is the last time you paid attention to the first taste of coffee in the morning or the feeling of a hot shower?
To get started on incorporating mindful moments into your daily life, here are some tips:
1.) Focus on Your Breath: Take a few moments (5-10 minutes) each day to sit quietly and simply focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out and notice how you feel. Notice how the breath feels going in and releasing out. Allow your mind to stay with your breathe through the whole process. That means not focusing on the light you forgot to turn off or the task you need to do when you are done with the breathing exercise.
2.) Be Aware of Your Body: Wherever you are take time to focus on every part of your body, wiggle your toes, feel the sensation move up your legs, let go of any tension. You are bringing attention to yourself.
3.) Take Notice of What is Currently Happening Around You: Often we get so wrapped up in our worries that we start getting overwhelmed and flustered when there is no immediate danger. Take some time to stop and pay attention to where you are currently standing, the sounds you hear (the clock ticking, the cars driving by, your breath, etc.).
4.) Learning to Shut Down Intrusive Thoughts: As you are practicing being mindful you will be faced with many thoughts that enter your head— the dishwasher, the laundry, the school project, whatever it is. Allow those thoughts to enter your brain and then swiftly exit. Don’t judge them. Don’t spend time on them. Just simply let them go and bring your attention back to the present.
These are just a few ways to begin a mindfulness practice. In therapy, you will learn other ways to be more present.
Other skills learned in DBT are:
Distress Tolerance: This focuses on teaching clients how to accept themselves and their current situation. They are taught how to tolerate a crisis using distraction, self-soothing, finding ways to improve the moment, and turning to the pros and cons of not tolerating the distress. This helps people to keep a more positive outlook long-term.
Emotion Regulation: Counselors work with clients to identify, name, and ultimately change their intense negative emotions. By recognizing and coping with these emotions they can reduce their emotional vulnerability and experience things more positively.
Interpersonal Effectiveness: Clients are taught how to be more assertive in their relationships, i.e. saying “no” and sharing their needs. They are taught how to listen and communicate effectively, deal with difficult people, and respect themselves and others. It is all about keeping relationships positive and healthy.
If you have been diagnosed with a mood disorder or struggle with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. then DBT might be a great solution. For more information or to find out if DBT is right for you, call Move Forward at 717-462-7003×1. We see clients around the state of Pennsylvania.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
At Move Forward, our professionally-trained and licensed counselors have openings. Just call our office at 717-462-7003×1 and speak to our administrative assistant to get started. You can get the tailored help you need right now. We are here.