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DBT Counselling Calgary

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Sometimes, life throws a curveball your way. People lie. Relationships end. Our days don’t go as planned. And when these things happen, how do you react?

In stressful situations, our thoughts move at light speed—we can barely get a handle on them before we start searching for a coping mechanism.  Some people have coping mechanisms that do more harm than good. They may engage in self-harm, substance abuse, and/or suicidal thoughts. Whenever stress or anxiety arises, they rely on these coping mechanisms, despite the harm they cause.

Through DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy), you learn skills that help you cope with extreme emotions. DBT gives you the tools you need to manage distressing thoughts and regulate your emotions.  If you have intense emotional responses and the behaviours that follow are destructive to your life, DBT gives you a way to stay in control.

Thinking about trying DBT? Here’s how it works and how it can help:

What Is DBT Therapy?

It’s a type of psychotherapy developed by Marsha Linehan in the 1980s. Linehan found that CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) wasn’t effective for certain people, so she developed a new treatment to better meet their needs. At first, it was used to help people dealing with BPD (borderline personality disorder). Now, DBT is utilized to help people who struggle with a variety of mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and anxiety.   At its core, DBT is built on two pillars: Acceptance and change. At first, these two things seem like total opposites. But that’s where the dialectical part comes in. Dialectical means “when two opposing things are true at the same time”. Here are a few examples:
  • I disagree with your opinion, AND I understand why you feel that way.
  • I love my family, AND I get annoyed or hurt by them sometimes.
  • I’m doing my best, AND I’m working to become a better person.
  • I’m strong, AND I need support from other people.
In DBT, the idea is that you accept yourself as who you are, AND you want to change. You learn skills to regulate your emotions, cope with distressing events, and change harmful behaviours. 
  • Radical acceptance. When you accept your thoughts and feelings, you don’t need to feel ashamed. Instead, you can feel validated that your reactions are reasonable. Your experiences and your responses to those experiences are valid. Acceptance promotes kindness and self-compassion. But by accepting something, that doesn’t mean we’ve given up on changing it.
  • Change. Once you’ve accepted your thoughts, the next step is developing skills to make positive changes. Skills that you learn in DBT include mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. 
DBT can be taught in a group setting or individually. The end goal is that people learn how to better manage their emotions and react to stress in healthier ways. 

How Does Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Work?

We mentioned earlier that in DBT, you’re taught four important skills. Two of those skills are about acceptance, and two help you make changes. Here’s what you can do to help target harmful behaviours:

Mindfulness: An important aspect of DBT therapy success

There’s a common misconception that mindfulness is this easy, breezy thing. 

But when your mind is full of difficult emotions and distressing thoughts, it’s not easy to be present with yourself. 

With DBT, people learn to observe their thoughts and then return to the present moment. Even though this sounds easy, it’s very different from what most people do—which is to experience a distressing thought and then try to stifle it or distract themselves from it.

And here enters another challenging part of mindfulness—as you experience your thoughts and feelings, you are fully aware of them. You don’t fight them back, judge yourself, or distract yourself. Instead, you acknowledge and stay present while they happen.

Distress tolerance: Learn how to ride the waves of your emotions

This skill comes in handy when we enter crisis mode—when something upsets us very deeply. Using distress tolerance, people learn how to move forward when they’re in extreme emotional turmoil. 

A few coping strategies include:

  • TIPP skills. This stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced Breathing, and Paired Muscle Relaxation. When you feel overwhelmed, TIPP skills bring you back to your body and help you calm your mind.  
  • Distraction. If the other methods just aren’t working, sometimes a distraction is the best way to avoid engaging in harmful behaviours. You can try the other methods once you feel calmer.

Interpersonal effectiveness: Maintain your self-respect in your relationships

Learn how to better communicate with other people, especially when your needs aren’t being met. You learn skills to assert what you require, say “no” when you need to, and be mindful of how others will react to you. 

Emotional regulation: Manage your emotions instead of letting them manage you

Emotions are completely natural. Everyone feels joy and sorrow, fear and anger, excitement and surprise. 

But when we experience a really intense emotion, we might react in harmful ways—by engaging in suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and/or substance use.

You can understand your emotions as a wave. They rise and fall but never disappear completely. DBT helps you keep afloat when your feelings fluctuate. 

Emotional regulation builds on all the other skills you learn through dialectical behaviour therapy. By learning these skills, you can avoid the destructive behaviours you may have previously used to cope with strong emotions.

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How Can You Benefit From DBT Therapy?

Through DBT, you can develop a greater awareness of your emotions, problem-solving skills for emotional crises, and how to communicate your needs to others.

You can also challenge your destructive coping mechanisms and learn to replace them with healthier habits.

Research shows that DBT is an effective therapy. It’s proven to reduce suicide attempts, self-injury, and inpatient hospitalizations. It’s also effective at helping reduce substance abuse.

How Is DBT Different From CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)?

If you’re familiar with CBT, you’ll notice some similarities between the two treatments. The difference is that DBT puts more emphasis on acceptance. 

CBT focuses on changing thought patterns. In DBT, people become more mindful and accepting of their thoughts. Then, they work on changing how they react to them. There’s also a bigger focus on interpersonal relationships and changing the way you communicate with others.

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Virtual or In-Person Counselling

At One Life, we know that some of our clients feel more comfortable at home. You might prefer virtual counselling because it’s more convenient, private, or easy to fit into your schedule. We offer both virtual and in-person counselling; let us know which one you prefer, and we’ll be happy to accommodate you.

Learn To Regulate Your Emotions With Dialectical Behaviour Therapy in Calgary

How will you react the next time life throws a challenge your way?

With DBT, you can build the skills and awareness you need to prevent self-destructive behaviours. 

By accepting yourself—your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs—you can find a sense of inner peace. Let go of the judgement, blame, and guilt that you place on yourself. With DBT, you can learn to accept and manage difficult emotions.

Interested in trying DBT? At One Life Counselling & Coaching, we’re open 7 days a week. With no waitlists and fast response times, we’re available when you are. Contact us today!
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