Lessons from a Therapist: Skills for Managing Emotions and Behaviors


Understanding Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Guest blog by Miyoshi Jones-Tunstall, MA, LPA, Behavioral Health Outpatient Lead Counselor

Whether you’re seeking professional counseling or just need some skills to cope with the pandemic, SouthLight Healthcare’s Miyoshi Jones-Tunstall explains a treatment therapy called DBT, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Learn what it and how the skills can transfer into everyday life.

Emotion regulation, mindfulness, groups, personality disorder–these are all common terms that may come to mind when Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) treatment is mentioned. While DBT can be a complex treatment, many of the skills transfer easily into our everyday life and interactions.

So what is DBT? DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan as a type of psychotherapy to give a person new skills that help with managing emotions that are painful, decrease relationship conflicts, and learn to improve quality of life. More specifically, DBT is used to treat conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, addiction and eating disorders.

There are four key elements of DBT that are designed specifically to better manage behaviors, emotions, and thoughts:

It would take a more in-depth article to break down the nuts and bolts of DBT treatment. What I’m often asked is “How can DBT help me?” As a DBT counselor, I practice some of the skills and teachings myself. The power that is packed in this treatment modality has:

  1. Helped me focus on the present more as opposed to being stuck in the past (depression) or caught up in the future (anxiety).
  2. I’ve learned to accept most things for what they are and realize they are not in my control. In other words…”it is what it is!”
  3. Challenged me to see things beyond absolutes such as “good or bad.”
  4. Taught me that I am not my feelings.

I have witnessed individuals in DBT treatment decrease or eliminate acts of self-harm, master skills to prevent repeated hospitalizations, hold down jobs due to overall improved management of symptoms and repair relationships. Most important, I’ve seen clients learn to have a life they feel is worth living.

DBT is structured in a way that support is available in addition to the traditional weekly therapy session. DBT counselors assist with navigating through life, sometimes as life is actually happening.  Individual therapy sessions, group sessions, coaching calls, and a consultation team helps to pull everything together.

Whether you need support with accepting circumstances, managing emotions, or changing behavior, research supports that DBT can be effective.

Your turn: now I’m going to randomly ask you to pay attention to your breath. Take note of your belly rising and falling. Notice yourself inhaling and exhaling. Guess what…? You’ve just practiced mindfulness!

To learn more about DBT or other outpatient treatments and services for mental health and substance use, contact SouthLight or visit our website at

Whether you need support with accepting circumstances, managing emotions, or changing behavior, research supports that DBT can be effective.

About SouthLight:

Founded in 1970, SouthLight Healthcare is one of the area’s largest nonprofit providers of substance use treatment and mental health services. SouthLight partners with individuals and communities to provide innovative treatment solutions delivered with compassion and dignity. With outpatient and community-based programs, SouthLight provides prevention, education and treatment services in the Triangle and beyond. Call 919-787-6131 for help or more information.