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There is a plethora of psychotherapeutic modalities that can be integrated into mental health treatment plans and used simultaneously as a means to complement one another. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a type of therapy that was developed to help treat individuals who suffered from traumatic events. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic treatment method originally developed to better serve chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). According to EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), “DBT can be used as a stand-alone intervention, or its numerous components (particularly the skills) can be utilized within a comprehensive paradigm of trauma focused care. DBT skills have long been integrated alongside EMDR therapy.” In Southern California, many mental health providers are qualified as both DBT and EMDR clinicians. Gaining an understanding of how each modality works, respectively, can help in recognizing how they may act as supplemental mental health treatment approaches. 

EMDR Basics

American psychologist, Francine Shapiro developed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in 1987. EMDR is based on the notion that physiological symptoms occur as a result of trauma or challenging experiences overwhelming the brain’s natural ability to heal. EMDR works by changing certain unhealthy coping mechanisms that have been developed to help an individual cope with a traumatic event or events. The reason being, when a traumatic experience occurs it is highly common for the negative memory to get stuck in the right hemisphere and for an individual to perseverate on it without properly processing the experience. EMDR works by using a bilateral eye movement method to keep a balance between the two hemispheres of one’s brain. While in the presence of a mental health professional and in a safe and controlled environment, EMDR therapy facilitates the healing process through bilateral stimulation where the individual can revisit the experienced trauma and learn to re-process and reintegrate it in a way that is both healthy and disarming, alleviating physiological stress. Through EMDR, an individual’s brain is essentially taught to process negative experiences, while simultaneously implementing a positive self-belief, utilizing both hemispheres of one’s brain by way of the bilateral eye movement method. 

DBT Basics

Marsha M. Linehan originally developed dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) in the late 1980s. DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that emphasizes the psychosocial aspect of treatment. Although DBT was originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) it has since proven effective in treating other mental health ailments. Dialectical behavior therapy is comprised of three distinct components: weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, weekly DBT group skills training sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. The group DBT skills training sessions are used to teach and help facilitate fostering skills in the following four core areas:

  • Core Mindfulness: skills focused on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in any given moment.
  • Distress tolerance: skills focused on increasing an individual’s tolerance of negative emotions instead of attempting to avoid or escape them.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: skills focused on increasing an individual’s communication strategies.
  • Emotion regulation: skills focused on helping an individual identify, name, and understand the function of emotions, and increasing one’s ability to regulate emotions.

Through DBT individuals will learn applicable skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflicts in relationships. 


The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health.  As such, please do not use any material provided above as a means to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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