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February 7, 2017

DBT Program Opening in Seattle

DBT Program Opening in Seattle

A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Intensive Outpatient Program (DBT IOP) is coming this spring to our Seattle site. So what exactly does that mean? Therapist Amy Hammett, the program’s coordinator, explains DBT and how it applies to eating disorder treatment at The Emily Program.

TEP: What is DBT and why is it used for treating eating disorders?

Amy: Dialectical behavior therapy was created by Marsha Linehan to treat suicidal clients. Through her initial work, she learned that when she used straight cognitive behavior therapy, clients assumed the therapist was implying there was something wrong with their thoughts. When she swung to the opposite end of the spectrum and emphasized accepting clients where they were, they felt hopeless that anything would change. Thus, Linehan created a therapy based on holding both ends of this spectrum—acceptance AND change—a dialectic! A dialectic is holding two seemingly opposing truths at once.

DBT proved to be so effective, researchers began using the treatment for different populations—including people diagnosed with eating disorders—successfully. After using DBT for people struggling with eating disorders, what I’ve learned to appreciate at a deep level is how DBT emphasizes practicalities and mutuality. The skills that DBT teaches are taught because there is no assumption that someone struggling knows how to avoid eating disorder behaviors or decrease their urges without learning how! Additionally, DBT emphasizes the therapeutic endeavor as a mutual one between the client and the therapist. Both commit to one another to do the best they can and to protect this agreement every step along the way.

TEP: Who should consider DBT?

Amy: Clients who struggle with suicidal thoughts or behaviors, self-harm, chaotic interpersonal relationships, emotional reactivity, and/or struggle with their sense of self in addition to an eating disorder may be a good fit for our DBT program. Additionally, clients who have received eating disorder treatment in the past but find themselves quickly relapsing after discharging from a higher level of care may also do well in DBT. This is because DBT places such a strong emphasis on maintaining motivation and helping clients apply the DBT skills learned in the program out in their everyday lives. These skills are grouped into four categories: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

TEP: What will a typical day be like for a DBT client at The Emily Program-Seattle?

Amy: A typical day for a client in our DBT program will include arriving at noon and staying for three 1-hour-long groups (one of which includes eating a meal together). Every day there will be a group dedicated solely to acknowledge the progress that each individual client has made towards his/her/their self-identified goals and/or strategizing how to decrease barriers to meeting their goals. Phone coaching is a component that makes DBT distinct. It means in the evening if a client is struggling with an eating disorder, self-harm, or suicidal urges, the client has the ability to reach out to their individual therapist to get help with putting their skills into practice.

To schedule an assessment or make a referral, please call 1-888-364-5977. There is help. There is hope.

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