Teresa Susmaras – Benefits of Dialiectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) teaches patients to control self-destructive thoughts, increase self-awareness and deal with conflict and stress through a combination of behavior and cognitive therapies. DBT was first used in the 1970s to treat patients with borderline personality disorders and today is used to treat a wide array of emotional and behavioral disorders. Dr. Teresa Susmaras has used DBT throughout the course of her career as a clinical neuropsychologist.

The practice of DBT involves going through four stages of treatment modules—mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. During DBT, treatment is organized into these phases, with a strict order as to how problems are addressed.

Through DBT, patients focus on changing and controlling harmful behaviors. Benefits of DBT include learning ways to decrease high risk and self-destructive behavior, decreased symptoms related to anxiety and depression and enhanced self-respect. These benefits are achieved through focusing on facts over emotions, enabling patients to react in positive and productive manners without spiraling into destructive behaviors and thoughts.

Doctors have found success in treating a wide range of emotional disorders with DBT including bipolar disorder, depression disorders, chemical dependency and addiction, anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Eating disorders such as bulimia, binge eating, anorexia and emotional eating are increasingly being treated with DBT as well due to the emphasis this type of therapy puts on emotional regulation and incorporating healthy coping strategies.

Dr. Teresa Susmaras currently practices clinical neuropsychology in Wisconsin. She has also practiced at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rush University Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.


Teresa Susmaras – What is Clinical Psychology?

American psychologist Lightner Witmer is credited with being the first to treat a patient with clinical psychology when he cared for a young boy with a learning disability in the late 19th century.  Shortly afterwards, Witmer founded the first ever psychological clinic, located at the University of Pennsylvania and specializing in the treatment of children.  The term clinical psychology was first used in 1907 when Witmer used the phrase in his new publication, The Psychology Clinic.

Clinical psychology is the combination of clinical knowledge, science and theory for the intention of helping, understanding and preventing psychological dysfunction.  Clinical psychologists treat patients through psychological assessments aimed at gaining an understanding of the mental and emotional health of the patient.  Mental and emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, anxiety and depression are some of the conditions treated by clinical psychologists.

When assessing patients, clinical psychologists employ a variety of techniques to determine the root of the particular problems they are experiencing.  Methods may include psychological testing, interviews with family members and friends, observation of the patient and intelligence testing.  Interviewing friends and family allows for an outside perspective of the patient’s personality.  Through these methods, clinical psychologists seek to determine the possible causes and foundation of the patient’s mental state.

Teresa Susmaras became interested in clinical psychology while working as a research assistant as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago.  She went on to earn both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Suffolk University and is now a licensed psychologist.