- What to Expect
- About Us
Our blog archive of insights and intel
Mar 12, 2020
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is one type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It has demonstrated effectiveness with a variety of mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Though it was developed in the 1980s by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., as a therapy for suicidal thinking and self-harm, DBT has found applications for many more substance abuse disorders as well as mental health diagnoses.
DBT focuses on the fluid nature of acceptance and change, two concepts that may seem mutually exclusive. Practitioners believe that people need to learn new behaviors to find satisfaction in their lives. Supporting and validating clients helps them to gain the motivation to learn and practice new things. DBT demonstrates effectiveness in addressing eating disorders using the five components of the treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapies such as CBT are the preferred method of treatment for eating disorders as it appears to slow or stop the unhealthy behaviors present in the condition. DBT is often offered alongside other types of service in residential treatment programs for eating disorders. Other clients receive DBT services in an outpatient setting. Sessions may be in a group format or one-on-one with a trained therapist. Individual sessions allow the client to practice what they are learning in a group so that the best approach may be a combination of the two.
Clients report multiple positive outcomes with DBT services.
The body of research on DBT and eating disorders is still evolving. However, the current prominent perspective is that DBT is most helpful for clients with bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. It is most likely to be successful with clients who have Borderline Personality Disorder and intense emotions along with the eating disorder. For clients who have not found success with traditional CBT or other forms of individual psychotherapy, DBT may produce better results. Mindful eating, trigger identification, and healthy responses to stressors are a few of the skills that DBT teaches these clients to use.
Here are a few of the relevant studies into the use of DBT with eating disordered clients.
Along with the research studies, case studies exist demonstrating the effective use of DBT for clients with eating disorders. A 23-year-old female diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, binge-eating/purging subtype, received six months of residential treatment. She found DBT helped her learn the skill of “Opposite to Emotion” or “Opposite Action,” which means acting in a way that is opposite or different from what your emotions would typically demand. Rather than reacting with food restriction when offered meals, she chose to practice gratitude for the meal and for the chance to practice her new skills.
This client also used the concept of “Radical Acceptance” as her weight began to restore to a healthy level. Instead of attacking herself, she instead committed to love and accept everything about herself throughout the growth process. Over time, her inner dialogue changed for the better.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services certifies Mental Health Systems as an accredited provider of DBT for adults and adolescents, including those with developmental disabilities. Contact us today to set up an appointment for evaluation if you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder.
Image Credit: Getty/ KatarzynaBialasiewicz