How DBT Can Help You Cope with Trauma

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Today we're exploring a transformative therapeutic approach called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and its role in helping individuals cope with trauma.

Trauma can leave deep and lasting scars, but it's crucial to remember that healing is possible. 

One of the proven ways to embark on this journey toward recovery is through DBT. 

Originally developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT has evolved into an effective treatment for various mental health disorders, including those stemming from trauma. 

This article aims to shed light on the healing potential of DBT.  So, let's start this journey of understanding and healing together. 


Trauma & PTSD Counselors

Megan Brausam, LPC

Megan Brausam, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Sarah Munk, LPC

Sarah Munk, LPC

Colorado
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Abigail Corless, LPCC

Abigail Corless, LPCC

Colorado
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Jennifer Wilson, LPCC, NCC

Jennifer Wilson, LPCC, NCC

Colorado
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Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Laura Brinkman, MA, LPCC

Laura Brinkman, MA, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Sherry Rice, LPCC, ADDC

Sherry Rice, LPCC, ADDC

Colorado
(719) 452-4374


DBT Treats Traumatic Stress-Related Disorders

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) treats traumatic stress-related disorders by focusing on the development of emotional regulation skills, mindfulness, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. 

These are all areas that can be significantly impacted by trauma. For example, a person who has experienced a traumatic event may struggle with intense emotions that seem overwhelming. 

Through DBT, they learn skills to regulate these emotions without resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

They also learn to be present and mindful, rather than being consumed by painful memories or anxieties about the future.

To illustrate, let's consider someone suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a common traumatic stress-related disorder. 

This individual might experience flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety. 

DBT can help by teaching this person techniques to manage their distress during these intense moments, such as grounding techniques or self-soothing strategies. 

Additionally, DBT can help them to challenge and change unhelpful beliefs related to their trauma. 

For instance, if the person blames themselves for the traumatic event, DBT would work to help them understand and shift this self-blame, aiding in their overall recovery process. 



DBT Addresses Fundamental Dysregulations


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) addresses fundamental dysregulations often associated with trauma by helping individuals gain better control over their responses to traumatic stimuli. 

These dysregulations can manifest as difficulties in controlling emotions, behaviors, attention, and cognition. 

For instance, a person who has experienced trauma might have trouble regulating their emotions, leading to intense emotional swings, outbursts, or withdrawal. 

They might also struggle with impulsive or self-destructive behaviors as a way to cope with distress.

In DBT, the individual would learn skills to help manage these dysregulations. 

For example, if a survivor of trauma becomes overwhelmed with anger and resorts to harmful behaviors like substance abuse, DBT can teach them alternative strategies. 

This might include using mindfulness techniques to recognize the onset of anger, emotion regulation skills to manage the intensity of the emotion, and distress tolerance skills to cope with the discomfort of the emotion without resorting to harmful behaviors. 

In this way, DBT directly addresses the fundamental dysregulations that can arise from trauma. 


DBT Reduces PTSD Symptoms

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms by teaching individuals practical skills to manage their distress and regulate their emotions. 

PTSD often manifests as recurring flashbacks, nightmares, or severe anxiety related to a traumatic event. 

DBT helps individuals develop mindfulness techniques that can reduce the intensity of these symptoms. 

For example, grounding exercises can help pull an individual out of a distressing flashback and back into the present moment.

Additionally, DBT promotes emotion regulation strategies that help individuals manage the intense emotions often associated with PTSD, such as fear, anger, or guilt. 

By learning to understand and accept these emotions, individuals can reduce their emotional suffering and decrease the severity of their PTSD symptoms. 



Promotes Healthy Emotional Management and Relationship Nurturing

For emotional management, DBT emphasizes the importance of understanding and accepting one's emotions. 

By learning to identify and label emotions accurately, individuals can better regulate their emotional responses, reducing the likelihood of extreme emotional highs and lows. 

DBT also teaches techniques such as mindfulness and distress tolerance, which help individuals manage negative emotions without resorting to harmful coping mechanisms. 

When it comes to relationships, DBT focuses on interpersonal effectiveness. Individuals learn how to express their needs assertively, negotiate conflicts, and maintain healthy boundaries. 

This allows them to nurture more fulfilling and balanced relationships, which can be particularly beneficial for those whose trauma has impacted their ability to form and sustain healthy relationships. 


DBT Increases Distress Tolerance

One of the key elements of DBT is Distress Tolerance, which is about accepting, finding meaning for, and tolerating distress. 

For instance, a person who often experiences panic attacks might use DBT techniques to manage their reactions. Instead of spiraling into a state of intense fear and anxiety when a panic attack occurs, they would learn through DBT to accept the discomfort, understand it's temporary, and use coping skills like deep breathing or visualization to get through the episode. 

This doesn't mean the panic attack will disappear, but the individual will be better equipped to handle it.

Another example can be found in individuals struggling with substance abuse. 

Often, these individuals use substances as a way to escape from distressing thoughts or feelings. 

DBT increases distress tolerance by teaching these individuals alternate ways to cope with their distress. 

For instance, they might learn mindfulness techniques that help them stay present and focused during times of stress instead of turning to substances. 

They might also learn how to self-soothe using the five senses, such as listening to calming music or savoring a cup of herbal tea. 

Over time, these new skills can help to reduce the reliance on substances as a coping mechanism. 


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Conclusion

In conclusion, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers a structured and comprehensive approach to help individuals cope with trauma. 

Through its core components - mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance - DBT provides the tools necessary to process traumatic experiences and manage the emotional upheaval that often accompanies them. 

Whether it's learning to accept and tolerate distressing emotions, improving relationships, or finding healthier ways to respond to emotional triggers, DBT can be a powerful ally in one's journey toward healing from trauma. 

By fostering resilience, emotional stability, and healthier coping mechanisms, DBT offers a promising pathway toward recovery and a better quality of life post-trauma. 

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July 14th, 2024

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