motions, both positive and negative, are a normal part of life, but they can sometimes become so strong that they make you lose control. If your emotions have a tendency to take over and cause you to lash out, you may feel confused, helpless, or guilty. You don’t want to react so intensely, but you become so overwhelmed with emotion that you just can’t stop.
Struggling with emotional regulation can be scary. You might not know what will trigger your emotional highs or lows, so you may always feel nervous about the possibility of an outburst. Not only do you have to navigate the intense emotions, but you also have to manage the personal and interpersonal consequences of lashing out.
In many cases, extreme emotional reactivity is caused by unresolved childhood trauma. Mental health is incredibly complex, and there can be a number of factors affecting your emotional regulation. Although you can’t change your past, you do have the power to take control of your emotions in the present. It may not happen overnight, but if you’re ready to put in the work, you can develop the coping skills needed to stay grounded in any situation.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group specializes in dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, an evidence-based treatment that can have profound benefits for people overcoming trauma and other challenges. We understand how difficult it can be to get to the root of your trauma, but our therapists are here to help.
What Is DBT?
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was established in the 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan. It was originally intended as a treatment for borderline personality disorder, but over the years, mental health professionals have successfully used DBT to treat other mental stressors as well.
DBT stems from cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, a form of treatment that focuses on the relationship between your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. In CBT, you and your therapist explore your automatic reactions to situations, assess your negative thinking habits, and practice replacing those negative thoughts with positive thoughts. DBT uses a similar philosophy, but it also includes some other important elements that can help with emotional regulation in the current moment.
DBT is grounded in the philosophy of dialectics, which is the practice of bringing together two opposing ideas. Change, learning, and growth can happen within yourself when opposite forces are in dialogue with each other.
In DBT, this approach can help you find a powerful middle ground between two common yet opposing goals in therapy: self-acceptance and change. While long-term change is necessary for improving your overall health and wellness, it’s also important that you acknowledge and accept your emotions. By validating yourself, you avoid the feelings of guilt and shame that only make the cycle of emotional reactivity worse.
The goals of DBT are to reduce your self-destructive behaviors, regulate your emotions, process your emotional pain and trauma, and promote stability. This can help you manage difficult, emotional, or triggering situations without lashing out at yourself or others, and it empowers you to relate more positively to yourself and the world.
Who Can Benefit From DBT?
Although dialectical behavior therapy was created to treat borderline personality disorder, therapists use this form of treatment with a wide variety of patients. You may benefit from DBT if you struggle with any of the following:
• Borderline personality disorder
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Bipolar disorder
• Substance use disorders
• Child trauma or abuse
• Suicidal ideation
• Eating disorders
Dialectical behavior therapy is supported for people of all ages. The therapy can help children and teens with emotional and behavioral disorders, older adults with chronic depression or personality disorders, and all ages in between.
You don’t need a diagnosed mental health condition to explore DBT. The goal of the therapy is to improve your emotional regulation, so it isn’t restricted only to people who meet certain mental health criteria. Some people are simply more emotionally sensitive than others, and if you think your ups and downs are affecting your quality of life, it’s time to reach out for help.
What to Expect
It’s normal to be nervous before your first therapy session. Therapy is an emotionally vulnerable experience, and the idea of speaking with a counselor about personal matters can feel overwhelming. Remember that therapy is completely confidential, and your counselor is there to support you.
You may attend either group or individual DBT sessions. Group DBT may feel more like a class than a therapy session, though. During the meeting, your therapist will teach you and the other participants various skills that strengthen your emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal communication, or other goals. DBT also usually involves homework assignments that help you apply the skills learned in the session to your day-to-day life.
Group DBT can be a valuable experience because it provides a support network of people who are facing similar challenges. You may practice certain skills by roleplaying with other group members, which is an excellent way to work through difficult scenarios in a safe environment.
Mindfulness is a core element of DBT as well. This practice allows you to acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without judgment, which helps you validate yourself without having an intense reaction to your negative thoughts. Your therapist may introduce mindfulness with short meditation sessions. Over time, though, you’ll begin to incorporate mindfulness into other moments throughout your day.
For some people, individual DBT sessions are more appropriate. When you work one-on-one with a therapist, you have the opportunity to safely explore and process the experiences that have shaped your mental and emotional health. Your therapist can structure the sessions in a way that best meets your needs, which will help lay the groundwork for success.
With the help of your therapist, you’ll learn to identify your negative thinking patterns and replace them with healthier thoughts. This will reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions, improve your distress tolerance, and strengthen your relationship with yourself and others.
Overcoming emotional dysregulation on your own can be incredibly difficult. Our minds easily develop unhealthy thinking patterns, and these habits can have painful emotional consequences. Professional support is the best way to learn how to take a step back, acknowledge your experiences without judgment, and respond to challenging scenarios while staying in control of your emotions. Dialectical behavior therapy addresses all of these goals.
At The Beverly Hills Therapy Group, our DBT therapists are committed to helping clients thrive despite their trauma or hardships. Empathy and validation are at the center of our work, and we are trained and experienced in dialectical behavior therapy DBT, and other therapeutic modalities. If you’re struggling with a mental health disorder or any other emotional concern, you don’t have to handle it on your own. Contact us today to connect with a licensed therapist.
Ron N. Gad, PhDFounder
Ron N. Gad, PhD is the founder of Beverly Hills Therapy Group in California. Dr. Gad holds a PhD in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Along with his staff of licensed therapist, Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides mental health services for many disorders including anxiety, trauma, depression, and several others.