Dialectal Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is one of a number of treatments available for eating disorders, and one of the most successful. We asked RIVIA clinician Alexandra Kagan, LMSW, how she uses DBT and why it works.
Thanks for sitting down with us, Alexandra! Explain to us what Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, is?
Dialectical or DBT therapy is a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy used originally for patients with Borderline Personality Disorder. It has been adapted to help patients with eating disorders such binge eating or bulimia or anyone who may use food to cope with unpleasant emotions. “Dialectical” refers to two opposite terms that can be true at once, meaning a feeling can be present but that does not mean it is permanent. In DBT the therapist and patient work together in order to balance change with acceptance of things that cannot be changed.
How is it applied in eating disorder treatment?
DBT teaches how to regulate your emotions and helps change your feelings on how you see yourself and your relationship with food. I work with patients to help them accept themselves as they are. I help motivate them to change their maladaptive coping skills. It’s a combination of therapy and skills training.
What are the skills you help teach?
Some useful skills include mindfulness, or practicing being fully aware and present in the moment. Other skills include tolerating distress, learning to accept and coping with negative emotions in a healthy way. You can learn how to regulate the emotions that may trigger negative behavior.
DBT treatment has a very high success rate in helping clients focus on effectively applying their DBT skills to their everyday lives.
If you’re interested in booking an appointment with Alexandra, and learning more about DBT, click here!