Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe which types of clients benefit most from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (or DBT) and how it helps calm down intense emotions - click here.
For most of us, our emotions are manageable and easy to navigate. They express the highs and lows of life and color our everyday experiences. However, for many people, emotions surge and swell without notice. Happiness can burn into anger and hope can wither into depression in the blink of an eye.
The surges of negative feelings that become intense outbursts are deeply confusing, not only to the person experiencing them but to everyone around them. Their friends, family, and coworkers tell them to pull themselves together with phrases like “get a grip ,” “be less sensitive,” and “you are such a drama queen.” However, they cannot hope to stop what they cannot control. Other people often think they are undisciplined, immature, or deeply flawed in a fundamental way.
They often give up hope and believe that their lives will never improve.
As a psychologist, I have worked with many clients who have struggled everyday to control how they felt and reacted to situations. By the time they finally sought out treatment, they were often thoroughly frustrated, helpless, and hopeless. They felt like they would never learn how to control their emotions like everyone else. Many of them had developed self-destructive habits to soothe, mask, or escape their underlying emotional discomfort and pain. They would sometimes lash out at others, avoid proper nutrition, regularly self-mutilate, escape into alcoholism, or develop other addictions when their emotions became too difficult to handle.
They were desperate for any kind of escape, no matter the cost.
Many years ago, Dr. Marsha Linehan developed a type of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, to help resolves intense emotions and regain control of life. Dr. Linehan was frustrated with therapies she thought fell short of helping her clients reign in emotional intensity in the moment. She wanted a therapy regimen that could teach clients coping skills so they could handle situations on their own in between sessions. She wanted her clients to be able to regain control of the car when they began to spin out of reality.
DBT is extremely effective with clients who are struggling with emotions that are too intense, too frequent, and too overwhelming.
If someone you know is experiencing extremely intense emotions or outbursts, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.
"Doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Practical Guide" by Kelly Koerner