One of the most effective therapies for those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) – as we have seen, BPD is closely linked to childhood trauma) is called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
What Is DBT?
DBT is based on the person’s need to change their behavior and their need to be accepted. The therapy was devised by Marsha Lineham, PhD.
What Does DBT Involve?
Typically, DBT involves :
- individual psychotherapy (usually once per week), starting with changing the individual’s most concerning behaviors, then changing behaviors hindering therapy (e.g. missing appointments), and finally with ‘quality of life issues.’
- skills training (within a group-therapy context). The four main skills that are taught are :
- phone consultation
- DBT for the family (paricularly important if the individual being treated is a young person living within an invalidating family environment)
Research Suggests That DBT Can Beneficially Alter Brain Functioning :
THE STUDY :
Research conducted by Schnell and Herpertz (2006) involved looking at the effects of DBT (specifically, training in emotional regualation, see number 4, above) on female patients’ brain functioning (this was done by taking magnetic resonance images, or MRIs, a type of brain scan) after they had spent 12 weeks undergoing an inpatient treatment program.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY :
The female, BPD patients who improved following the DBT / emotional regulation skills 12 week inpatient program were found (by analysis of their MRIs) to show:
REDUCED ACTIVITY IN CERTAIN BRAIN REGIONS ASSOCIATED WITH THE GENERATION OF INTENSE EMOTIONS, INCLUDING THE AMYGDALA AND THE HIPPOCAMPUS.
Such a reduction of activity in these brain regions is associated with an increase in the individual’s abilty to prevent themselves from overreacting to stressful situations (overreacting to stressful situations, also known as impaired emotional regulation, is one of the hallmark features of BPD).
The above can be interpreted as further evidence for the effectiveness of DBT for treating patients suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD).
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).