Dialectical Behavior Therapy
One of the most effective therapies used to treat eating disorders is Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT. This approach, originally developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., is designed to teach patients new coping strategies to more effectively handle difficult emotions. Rather than turning to eating disorder behaviors, patients develop a set of life skills they can draw from for lasting recovery.
The four DBT skill sets are:
Mindfulness – Staying present in the moment with a deep awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. Rather than judging a thought or feeling, mindfulness practice helps patients learn to accept whatever they are experiencing in a given moment. With greater awareness, patients are better able to regulate their thoughts and feelings and shift their attention in another direction when their thought pattern is becoming unproductive or unhealthy.
Distress Tolerance – Learning to accept distress and other difficult emotions that are an inevitable part of life, rather than resorting to eating disorder behaviors. Part of distress tolerance is delaying gratification and avoiding impulsive behaviors, and finding healthier ways to cope such as self-soothing, distracting, and assessing pros and cons.
Emotion Regulation – Identifying emotions and working to let go of painful feelings to make room for positive ones.
Interpersonal Effectiveness – Improving interpersonal relationships by increasing assertiveness and communication skills. Some of the skills patients learn include asking for what they need, setting healthy boundaries, and coping with conflict effectively without hurting others or jeopardizing their self-respect.
Eating disorders affect the entire family, causing frustration and concern and drawing attention away from siblings. Recovery isn’t an isolated event – it is a process that unfolds each day, in the presence of family and friends.
Studies show that family involvement is essential for successful eating disorder recovery, particularly for teens. In family therapy, patients have the opportunity to discuss underlying issues and conflicts with their family in the presence of an objective therapist.