Tag: DBT

How Do DBT Skills Help Anxiety?

How Do DBT Skills Help Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common human experience, but when it becomes overwhelming and interferes with daily life, seeking effective strategies for managing it becomes crucial. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has emerged as a powerful approach for individuals grappling with anxiety. Rooted in the principles of mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness, DBT equips individuals with a toolkit of skills that can significantly alleviate the impact of anxiety.

1. Mindfulness: The Anchor in Turbulent Waters

Mindfulness is a cornerstone of DBT and serves as a foundational skill in managing anxiety. It involves being fully present in the moment, observing thoughts and feelings without judgment. By cultivating mindfulness, individuals develop the capacity to step back from anxious thoughts and avoid being consumed by them. This skill encourages a non-reactive stance towards anxiety-provoking situations, allowing individuals to respond thoughtfully rather than impulsively. Practicing mindfulness regularly enhances self-awareness, reduces rumination, and promotes a sense of calm amidst the chaos that anxiety can bring.

2. Distress Tolerance: Riding the Waves of Anxiety

Anxiety often brings distressing emotions that can feel overwhelming. DBT’s Distress Tolerance skills provide strategies for tolerating and managing intense emotions without resorting to harmful behaviors. Individuals learn techniques such as deep breathing, self-soothing activities, and radical acceptance. These skills empower individuals to face anxiety head-on, acknowledging its presence while choosing healthier ways to cope. By enhancing distress tolerance, individuals gain the resilience to weather the storms of anxiety without succumbing to its grip.

3. Emotion Regulation: Finding Balance in the Storm

Anxiety can trigger a rollercoaster of emotions, making it challenging to maintain emotional equilibrium. DBT’s Emotion Regulation skills offer practical tools to understand, label, and regulate emotions effectively. By learning to identify emotional triggers and patterns, individuals can develop personalized strategies for managing anxiety-related emotions. This skillset empowers individuals to reduce emotional reactivity, fostering a greater sense of control over their responses to anxiety-inducing situations.

4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: Navigating Anxiety in Relationships

Anxiety can strain relationships and hinder effective communication. DBT’s Interpersonal Effectiveness skills equip individuals with techniques to navigate social interactions skillfully, even in the midst of anxiety. Through assertiveness training and learning to set boundaries, individuals can enhance their ability to express their needs and concerns while maintaining healthy relationships. This skill not only reduces interpersonal stressors but also provides a supportive network for managing anxiety.

5. Combining Skills for a Holistic Approach

What makes DBT truly impactful for anxiety is its holistic approach, combining these skills to create a comprehensive strategy. Mindfulness lays the foundation, enabling individuals to be present with their anxiety without being overwhelmed. Distress Tolerance provides the tools to ride out moments of intense anxiety, while Emotion Regulation fosters emotional stability. Interpersonal Effectiveness ensures that anxiety doesn’t isolate individuals, but rather, helps them navigate social dynamics constructively.

DBT recognizes that managing anxiety is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It empowers individuals to tailor these skills to their unique needs and circumstances. By incorporating these skills into daily life, individuals can progressively transform their relationship with anxiety, moving from a place of distress to one of empowered control.

How Do DBT Skills Help Anxiety?

DBT skills offer a comprehensive and effective approach to managing anxiety. Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness collectively provide a toolkit for individuals to navigate the challenges of anxiety while fostering emotional resilience, healthy relationships, and a greater sense of well-being. Whether anxiety arises from specific triggers or permeates various aspects of life, DBT skills can serve as a guiding light towards a calmer, more empowered existence.

What is CBT?

By Michael Arndt, Alumni Coordinator, CAST Centers
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CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) was first put into practice by Aaron T. Beck in the 1960’s and has in the ensuing years become an industry standard for evidenced-based care in mental health and addiction treatment. It traces its philosophical roots to a marriage of Greek Stoicism and Eastern mindfulness practices. Stoicism teaches us to essentially challenge our negative, maladaptive or unrealistic thoughts and perceptions of the world around us as a way of living. It is about finding objective truths.  Mindfulness practices teach us to be able to examine our own thoughts and to take them with a grain of salt. The idea behind CBT is that when you are able to reframe these problematic thoughts, you can then move into changing behavior that is not serving you.

CAST Centers recently hosted an in-service for our staff with Dr. Joel Becker, Ph.D who studied with Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1970’s in Boston after completing his training at Harvard. He now heads the Cognitive Behavior Associates practice here in Beverly Hills. He has been a leader in CBT since just after its inception. He now spends time working with SGM (sexual and gender minority) clients, in addition to teaching at UCLA in the Department of Psychology and the Geffen School of Medicine, precepting and seeing clients at Cognitive Behavior Associates.

CBT was originally developed with the hope of treating major depression. Over the years it has evolved to include many variations that treat everything from substance use disorders to OCD and anxiety. Offshoots of CBT include the very popular DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) which is primarily used in the treatment of personality disorders like borderline personality disorder. There is also mindfulness CBT, compassion-based CBT among many others, all sharing the same goal but aim to achieve it with slightly different approaches.

Mindfulness is seen across the board in all of the various offshoots of CBT. Mindfulness training teaches us to sort of detach ourselves from our thoughts (or cognitions, hence the word cognitive in CBT) instead of immediately reacting to them or even accepting them as necessarily true. In the recovery world, this is called “the pause.” It is a practice that lessens our reactivity to our thoughts and beliefs. For example, just because I have a negative thought towards my partner does not mean that it is true, or that I am a jerk for thinking it. It is just a thought, and I do not need to act on it. I can pause and ask myself if this thought is true, helpful, or in alignment with how I truly feel when I am coming from a more authentic and relaxed place. Or just because I think of using drugs, or engaging in self-harm does not mean I have to do it.

At its core, CBT is about examining root causes of negative thoughts and then building up towards taking contrary actions and setting goals as a team with the therapist. Over time, and with enough practice, we literally rewire our brains to act more in alignment with what we really want, and to make it second nature to do so. CBT is not the traditional open-ended talk therapy model that most of us think of when we think of therapy. Sitting in a room rehashing our childhoods over and over again with vague insights. It is about action, and implementing new tools into our daily lives. One of the things that sets CAST apart from most treatment centers is that we are very action-oriented. While we believe it is important to address underlying issues, we encourage and support our clients as they decide what kind of life they want for themselves. That is what our programs are all about: helping our clients dig deep and figure out exactly what they want out of life at their core so that they can begin building a life that is theirs and worth fighting for.

CAST Centers recently hosted an in-service for our staff with CBT pioneer, Dr. Joel Becker, Ph.D.

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