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Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders Treatment

November 26, 2012

Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders TreatmentDialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic method of treatment originally developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, PhD, to treat adult females struggling with self-harm and suicidal behaviors.  However, research shows that DBT also successfully treats females and males with eating disorders.

Persons with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or some other forms of disordered eating often present with intensely negative emotions, impulsive and compulsive behaviors, and desperate attempts to relieve emotional pain. Assembled from Western psychology traditions such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eastern meditative practices such as Buddhist mindfulness, DBT provides a pathway to ease emotional suffering and increase adaptive behavior regardless of an individual’s background.

DBT consists of four primary principles:  Core Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Distress Tolerance. Core Mindfulness teaches the skill of observing, noticing, and describing ones thoughts and feelings as a way to achieve “wise mind,” the place of truth and clarity.  Emotion Regulation skills were designed as a way to decrease emotional vulnerability and increase positive emotions. Interpersonal Effectiveness strategizes ways to get along with others peacefully and productively. Finally, Distress Tolerance focuses on coping with intense emotions and preventing further self-injury.

Behind DBT is the commitment to the core conditions of acceptance and change, hence the dialectic process. The dialectic method as used in DBT is the interplay of two coexisting and possibly even contradictory truths housed inside each of us. DBT practice is about encouraging the acceptance of self as is while also being motivated to change where change is realistically possible.

Here at Veritas Collaborative, the DBT program is offered as a skills-based class for the young men and women with eating disorders under our care. Residents typically attend DBT groups two to three times per week and are encouraged to practice the skills daily as circumstances permit. DBT is also woven into various aspects of the the Adolescent and University Programs such as individual sessions, meal processing, and mileau therapy. Through this therapeutic process, patients learn to increase self-awareness, control self-defeating thoughts, and handle conflict and stress.  With these skills, the young males and females under our care can have an increased chance for long-term recovery from their eating disorder.

— Written by Archana Aragon, LCSW,

To connect directly with a member of Veritas Collaborative’s Clinical Team, or for more information about how DBT is utilized at Verits Collaborative, please contact us at info@veritascollaborative.com or call 919-908-9730.