1. Therapy-interfering behavior is targeted through chain analysis and solution analysis after creating operational definitions of the behavior.
2. Creating operational definitions requires observation and a level of objectivity.
3. It is important to maintain a balance between being ridiculously scientific in a definition of the patient’s behavior versus using nebulous judgments.
Operational Definitions & Therapy Interfering Behaviors
DBT clinicians work with therapy-interfering behaviors in the same way they do any other behavior, by observing it, describing it and then using what is discovered from conducting chain analyses to create solutions that will hopefully lead to change.
Creating operational definitions or workable descriptions of behavior is not possible without first observing. The clinician must be clear on what is actually occurring or not occurring rather than some theory about why things are the way they are. As Linehan notes, you cannot describe anything until you first observe it. So the first step is to use those observe skills. Now, when observing what’s happening, let’s say we’re observing a behavior in therapy that’s interfering, it’s important to be specific. Because operational definitions help in the process of determining whether a behavior is increasing or decreasing, in order for them to be truly useful, they should be as clear and precise as possible. For example, rather than describing someone as not participating in therapy, the therapist might describe how the patient has not turned in a diary card for the past three sessions. This is a behavior anyone could observe and measure. Sometimes, we use catchphrases like not trying or not participating in therapy or not invested as a shorthand and this can be a real barrier when it comes to changing behavior. So we start with observing a behavior then we move to describing it using operational definitions to minimize judgment and bias as much as possible.