DBT & Suicidal Behaviors

The United States National Strategy for Suicide Prevention identifies DBT as an effective, evidence-based treatment that provides constructive interventions for individuals who are at high risk of suicide or self-harm.

Extensive research has shown that Dialectical Behavior Therapy is effective in reducing suicide attempts, suicidal behaviors, and non-suicidal self-injury. It has been shown to reduce by half the rate of suicide attempts when compared with non-behavioral treatment methodologies. This is because DBT treatment targets suicidal and destructive patterns of thought and behavior, reducing patients’ tendencies to resort to life-threatening behaviors without the need for hospitalization.

The skills that DBT teaches – mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness – are all designed to help people to tolerate and resist suicidal urges, and to manage their emotions and their relationships without resorting to life-threatening behaviors. The ‘dialectical’ element of DBT is the acceptance of suicidal behavior as an attempt to solve a seemingly insoluble problem, and to find new ways to solve that problem without resorting to self-harm.

The process of DBT treatment usually includes group skills treating, individual therapy to practice these skills, and coaching in the use of these skills in everyday life and to manage crisis situations. It helps people to better understand the factors that make them contemplate suicidal and other self-harming behaviors, and to use their new skills to deal with these factors in more constructive ways. Instead of regarding their situation as impossible, DBT encourages patients to understand the factors that contribute to their emotional state, and to find different problem-solving strategies to cope with them.

DBT is often recommended for people who are at high risk of suicide, particularly if they have attempted suicide or self-injury in the past. It recognizes the importance of reducing life threatening behaviors as a starting point for treatment. Anyone who undertakes a course of DBT treatment is asked to commit to the goal of reducing life-threatening behaviors as part of their treatment agreement.

Because of the risks involved in helping high-risk individuals, DBT therapists use a detailed protocol to assess and manage the issue of suicide risk. They will discuss their concerns with the other members of their therapist consultation team to make sure that they are providing the most effective treatment to each patient.

DBT centers like Machon Dvir are very experienced in dealing with high-risk cases and make sure to follow strict treatment protocols through our multi-therapist consultation team and support system.

If you know someone located in Israel who has contemplated self-harm or suicide, and if you would like to discuss their situation with the psychiatric team at Machon Dvir, please contact our office and explain the seriousness and urgency of the situation. We will endeavor to help you as quickly as possible. Contact office@machondvir.org or call +972-(0)2-625-2527.