From joy and love to hatred and disgust, emotional experiences are part of everyone's life. However, some people are more sensitive to emotion than others. They experience feelings quickly and intensely and take more time to "recover" from strong emotions.
Reasons for this sensitivity may include biological causes, as well as growing up in a family where one's feelings were ignored or dismissed as unreasonable.
One of the most commonly used for addiction treatment, trauma, and co-occurring disorders is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
Emotionally invalidating family experiences deprive us of the opportunity to learn the skills we need to cope with strong, sudden emotions in healthy ways. Instead, we may seek temporary solutions to emotional pain through behaviors that are destructive to our bodies, our relationships, and our lives, such as self-injury, disordered eating, or substance use. These solutions come with their own set of problems that eventually add to a sense that one's life is out of control.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, provides an opportunity to gain the skills necessary for identifying, experiencing and regulating emotions, in order to interact more effectively with ourselves and others.
There are two components to DBT: skills training group and individual therapy. In a skills training group, lectures and discussions focus on managing emotions, learning to be more effective in relationships, and learning techniques for tolerating distress. Individual therapy focuses on staying motivated, understanding how and why problem behaviors occur, and identifying alternative, more skillful ways of coping.
The overall approach to therapy is called "dialectical" because it seeks a balance between opposites — such as acceptance and change, validation and challenge, rigidity and flexibility. Underlying DBT is the practice of "mindfulness." Drawn from the Eastern tradition of meditation, mindfulness is about attending to the moment, without judgment or impulsivity.