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Emotional regulation and DBT

Emotions are a natural part of human life, but when they become overwhelming or difficult to manage, they can lead to a range of problems. Emotion regulation is the ability to manage and respond to emotions in a healthy and productive way. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy that can help individuals learn and develop effective emotional regulation skills.

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was developed by Dr Marsha Linehan in the 1980s to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder. However, it has since been found to be useful for a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

DBT is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy that focuses on teaching individuals how to regulate their emotions, tolerate distress, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. The therapy involves individual therapy sessions and group therapy sessions, which aim to help individuals develop skills in four key areas:

  1. Mindfulness - the ability to be present in the moment, observe thoughts and emotions without judgment, and focus on one's immediate experience.

  2. Emotion regulation - the ability to identify, label, and regulate emotions in a healthy and adaptive way.

  3. Interpersonal effectiveness - the ability to communicate assertively, set boundaries, and maintain relationships.

  4. Distress tolerance - the ability to tolerate difficult emotions and situations without resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

One of the key components of DBT is emotion regulation, which involves learning skills to manage intense emotions and reduce emotional vulnerability. Emotion regulation skills taught in DBT include:

  1. Identifying and labelling emotions - being able to identify and label emotions accurately is the first step in regulating them effectively. Individuals are taught to recognise and label different emotions, such as sadness, anger, fear, and joy.

  2. Opposite action - this involves changing one's behaviour in response to an emotion. For example, if an individual is feeling anxious, they may be encouraged to engage in a calming activity, such as deep breathing or meditation.

  3. Problem-solving - this involves identifying and addressing the underlying cause of an emotion. For example, if an individual is feeling overwhelmed by a workload, they may be encouraged to break it down into smaller, manageable tasks.

  4. Self-soothing - this involves engaging in activities that provide comfort and relief, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to music.

  5. Building mastery - this involves engaging in activities that help to build a sense of competence and achievement, such as learning a new skill or completing a task.

DBT has been found to be effective in improving emotional regulation in individuals with a range of mental health conditions. It has also been found to be useful in improving overall mental health, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reducing unhelpful behaviours. DBT provides individuals with a range of practical skills that can be used in everyday life to manage emotions and reduce emotional distress.


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