Decrease Suicide Ideation with Skills Learned in Dialectical Behavior Therapy
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“DBT provided me with a rubric for figuring out what was causing my anxiety, anger or sadness, and new options for how to behave in light of it. Once a week, for the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve attended a DBT group and learned a set of skills that have been nothing short of transformative.” – Will Lippincott
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a very serious mental illness that is estimated to affect 1.6% of the U.S. population. It involves unstable moods, behavior, and relationships, problems with regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive and reckless behavior, and unstable relationships. BPD is associated with high rates of co-occurring depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides. Needless to say, it is widespread and debilitating.
One of the few treatments that appears to be effective for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is targeted at changing the problem behaviors characteristic of BPD including self-injury. Behavior change is accomplished through focusing on changing the thoughts and emotions that precede problem behaviors, as well as by solving the problems faced by individuals that contribute to problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In DBT five core skills are practiced; mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, the middle path, and interpersonal effectiveness. How important it is for the patients to be successful in the development and employment of these skills is unknown.
In today’s Research News article “Suicidal Ideation and Skill Use During In-patient Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. A Diary Card Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5920639/ ), Probst and colleagues recruited patients diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and provided them with a 5-week program of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). The patients completed diary entries after each treatment day with ratings of their levels of suicide ideation and their use of the five core skills of DBT.
They found that the patients used skills and found them useful on 80% of treatment days. They found that the patients who had successful skill use on most days had greater reductions in suicide ideation than less successful patients. In addition, on days where skill use was successful there were lower levels of suicide ideation. Hence, successful employment of the five core skills of DBT appears to be very important for progress in therapy.
During the course of therapy, the BPD patient is encouraged to practice and use the five core skills; mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, the middle path, and interpersonal effectiveness. If they are successful in using these skills, suicidal thoughts appear to diminish. This emphasizes the importance of stressing skill development and use during Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as it can influence the effectiveness of treatment.
So, decrease suicide ideation with skills learned in Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
“A variety of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) interventions can reduce suicidal behavior in women with borderline personality disorder (BPD), but skills training is a “necessary component” of any intervention.” – Megan Brooks
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Probst, T., Decker, V., Kießling, E., Meyer, S., Bofinger, C., Niklewski, G., Mühlberger, A., … Pieh, C. (2018). Suicidal Ideation and Skill Use During In-patient Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. A Diary Card Study. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 152. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00152
Associations between suicidal ideation and skill use were investigated during in-patient dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for borderline personality disorder (BPD). Participants were N = 44 patients with BPD undergoing a 5-week in-patient DBT program in a psychiatric clinic. They filled in a diary card each treatment day resulting in 1,334 skill use ratings and 1,364 suicidal ideation ratings. Treatment days were categorized as days with successful skill use (using skills and perceiving them as effective), days with no skill use, days with unsuccessful skill use (using skills but perceiving them as ineffective). Multilevel models were performed to account for the nested data structure. The results showed that suicidal ideation improved more for patients who applied skills successfully more often during treatment (p < 0.05). Moreover, suicidal ideation was lower on treatment days with successful skill use compared to treatment days with no skill use and compared to treatment days with unsuccessful skill use (p < 0.05). When treatment days with no skill use were compared to treatment days with unsuccessful skill use, suicidal ideation was higher on treatment days with unsuccessful skill use (p < 0.05). To conclude, using skills successfully on as many treatment days as possible is associated with lower suicidal ideation