Learning Survival Skills Through Dialectical Behavioural Therapy
By Charlotte Bolt

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss a fairly common treatment option that is available in countries such as the US and the UK, this being DBT. I’m hoping to provide information and a personal anecdote on the program and its process. I received this treatment in inpatient care, however it is now widely available in community counselling. DBT taught me survival skills and helps me cope.

I suffer with anxiety and depression, which fuel self harm, suicidal thoughts, hearing voices and an eating disorder, and I feel this treatment option has helped me deal with all of these conditions.

Learning Survival Skills Through Dialectical Behavioural Therapy

How DBT works

DBT is short for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (dialectics being two ideals that can be different but also both true). Mainstream DBT is sectioned into four modules, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Walking the Middle Path, Distress Tolerance and Emotional Regulation. Some of these topics may feel more applicable to you than others. But believe me, they can all relate to everyone in some way.

The modules are taught simply but effectively, making the program accessible to all. They use many acronyms (such as TIPP skills for self harm urges and DEAR MAN skills for holding conversations and interacting with others), and always include worksheets for you to fill in with personal experiences and trials of the skills to consolidate your learning.

Survival skills

I found that DBT taught me crisis survival skills, enabling me to cope with unknown or triggering situations. This assisted me with my self harm urges, suicidal thoughts and times when I heard voices. I would definitely advise those offered DBT to take the opportunity to make a “life worth living” — a key mantra from the DBT syllabus! It truly is a lifesaving program.


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