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How NYC Dialectical Behavior Therapy Helps Patients Recover From Destructive Lives

By Joyce Sanders

There have always been members in any society that display behaviour that are deemed destructive and disruptive. Many of these people are suicidal, others harm themselves regularly and many others suffer from severe mood disorders. Unfortunately, society often shun these sufferers, thinking them mad or anti social. It is true, however, that they can be diagnosed and treated. In NYC dialectical behavior therapy has helped many mentally ill patients to once again enjoy life.

DBT methods were first developed by Marsha Linehan, associated with the Washington University. Her initial goal was to develop a way to treat patients with borderline personality disorders. Very soon, however, studies and empirical research showed that this method is also highly effective in treating patients with a wide variety of disorders, including chronically suicidal patients and those with severe mood swings and tendencies to harm themselves physically.

DBT is a combination of existing cognitive treatment methods and Zen Buddhist meditative techniques. Cognitive treatment focus on the regulation of the emotions, by the Buddhist components focus on teaching patients how to control their emotions, how to face reality, how to develop interaction skills and how to accept reality. Research studies have concluded that this method has achieved definite results with fewer patients attempting suicide.

There are two main components to a DBT treatment program. The first is individual psychotherapy sessions once a week. During these sessions the patient is taught techniques to help him take control of his emotional state, to react to stressful situations in a positive manner and to devise ways in which to make life worth living. Patients are also encouraged to examine the causes of the destructive behavioural patterns.

The other components consists of once a week group sessions lasting more than two hours each. In these sessions patients learn that they are not the only once suffering from destructive behaviour patterns. They share their experiences and the encourage each other to apply techniques that will help them control any destructive impulses. A high premium is also placed on teaching patients how to interact within a group.

Treatment programs are not scheduled for specific periods. Each patient progress at the pace that is comfortable to him. Typically, however, patients need to be part of a formal treatment program for at least six months. In some cases it can be significantly longer, especially if the patient is not motivated to succeed. Patients that recognize the fact that they have a problem progress much quicker.

DBT has critics. These critics argue that not enough research have been done. More importantly, they say that very little has been done to study the long term effects of DBT treatment programs. There is therefore no proof that the treatment is effective after the program finishes. Critics also say that programs tend to focus on one particular disorder while patients normally suffer from more than one ailment.

There can be no doubt that numerous patients have been helped by DBT. Most of them will be able to lead productive lives and to act as responsible members of society. It is important to keep in mind that these patients suffer from a recognized condition. It can be treated, just like a medical condition can be treated.

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