DBT, or dialectical behavior therapy, is a highly effective form of therapy that treats many different disorders. In DBT, people are taught two seemingly different and opposite strategies; acceptance and change. Patients are taught to accept that their experiences, emotions, and behaviors are valid. But they’re also taught that they have to make positive changes to manage their emotions and move forward.
In order to effectively treat patients, DBT is divided into 4 stages of treatment. The stages are defined by how severe a patient’s behaviors are. These are the four stages:
In stage 1, the patient has out of control behavior and typically feels miserable. Their behavior exhibits their emotional distress. They may be self-harming, trying to kill themselves, using drugs or alcohol, or engaging in other self-destructive behaviors. Patients typically describe their mental state during this stage as “hell”. The goal for DBT in stage 1 is to help the patient move forward by gaining behavioral control.
During stage 2, a patient may be in control of their behaviors but continue to suffer in silence. They often suffer due to past trauma and issues. While their behavior is improving their emotional and mental state is still inhibited. The goal of DBT in stage 2 is to get the patient out of their quiet desperation and into an emotionally healthy space. During this stage, past traumas and any PTSD would be treated.
Stage 3 is where patients learn to live. Now that they have control over their behaviors and are in an emotionally healthy place, they can learn how to live a functioning life. This is where patients define goals, build up self-respect, and find happiness. The main goal of DBT in stage 3 is for the patient to live a normal life and be able to cope with the ups and downs that life throws their way.
Unlike the first three stages, stage 4 is necessary for all patients. During stage 4, patients learn to find deeper meaning through a spiritual existence. Some patients need spiritual fulfillment to meet their life goals. During stage 4, patients gain a sense of connectedness from being apart of a greater whole and gain a capacity for experiencing joy and freedom.
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