How to Become More Effective in 2021: The Essence of DBT

Learn new skills to cope with stress the healthy way. Live in the moment and push for a positive change to become more effective this year.

If we’re going to set a goal to be more effective this new year, it’s important that we define our terms. Being effective is doing what works and avoiding what doesn’t work. It’s accepting reality and playing the cards we’ve been dealt—not what we wish would be, not what’s fair or unfair, right, or wrong. That thinking wastes our time and energy. Being effective is simply asking, “What is in the way of my goal and what can I do about it?”

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), created by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the late 1970’s, is a book of simple skills that can teach one to center their way of thinking and living around “being effective.” Dr. Linehan first created DBT to help people struggling with traits of Borderline Personality Disorder (effects may include difficulty managing feelings, black and white thinking, and difficulties maintaining relationships), but soon ran clinical studies with eating disorders, gambling, drug and alcohol abuse, and other unhealthy coping behaviors that make functioning effectively very difficult. Each study produced clinically-validated results showing a decrease in harmful unhealthy behaviors.

DBT is split into four parts (called modules), the first of which is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the cornerstone of DBT and is the practice of understanding the judgements we place on our thoughts and feelings that often hold us back from living in the moment and thus being fully effective in all aspects of life. The second part of DBT is interpersonal effectiveness, where we learn better ways to communicate and how to determine and articulate what we truly want from others, as well as how to set and maintain boundaries. The third part of DBT is emotional effectiveness. In this section we learn how to not make a bad situation worse. Life can throw a lot at us, but it’s what we choose to do next that determines how effective we truly are. The final part of DBT is distress tolerance. This module teaches us skills to help us better handle unexpected events, which pretty much sums up 2020 in a nutshell. Distress tolerance helps by showing us ways to distract ourselves during overwhelming circumstances until we can come to an effective decision on how to proceed.

I wish you all an effective and healthy 2021, and the use of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills is a great way to achieve this goal.

By Adam Friedman, PhD