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June 16, 2010
By Noah McKay
Alan Fruzzetti, associate professor of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Department of Psychology and director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Research Program, was honored with the Mikawa Award from the Nevada State Psychological Association for his research and teaching on the development, evaluation and training of DBT this spring.
This form of therapy is meant to treat people with multiple problems including borderline personality and related disorders, self-harm, suicidal tendencies and depression. DBT integrates the strategies of acceptance-oriented therapies with the strategies and precision of behavioral and cognitive therapies.
“Dr. Fruzzetti's work has helped the field understand the deleterious impact of invalidation on one's functioning,” said Jacqueline Pistorello, research faculty at the University’s Counseling Services. “He has been doing painstaking process studies to look at ways to teach validation in various family systems.”
The Mikawa Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Psychology recognizes the exemplary work of a Nevada psychologist. The namesake for this award is past University of Nevada professor James Mikawa, who was with the Department of Psychology for 27 years serving in many administrative positions, including chair of the department. The one area Mikawa most valued was mentoring and teaching students.
Fruzzetti carries on Mikawa’s tradition by “conducting cutting edge research on how to best train therapists in DBT via convenient, accessible, behaviorally based Web sites,” Pistorello said.
These modules help therapists learn how to make proper discriminations of effective versus ineffective moment-by-moment interventions in therapy.
Throughout DBT, the therapist strives to understand and validate the primary emotional experience of patients, helping them to validate themselves. Using this therapy, therapists encourage patients to substitute healthy alternatives for the problematic reactions and dysfunctional behaviors that initially brought the patients into treatment.
Fruzzetti has contributed to numerous articles, and in 2006 wrote The High Conflict Couple: A dialectical behavior therapy guide to finding peace, intimacy, and validation. The book is a resource for couples when one spouse has a Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP). The text provides guidance for “high-conflict" couples by explaining how to better regulate the emotions that provoke the "escape or win" mode of interaction typically associated with BDP.
Fruzzetti currently has grant funding to study the comparisons of DBT with psychodynamic psychotherapy and for the development of effective applications of DBT to women victims of intimate partner abuse.
“The overarching goal of DBT is to help clients create lives worth living by helping them learn to regulate or manage their emotions,” Fruzzetti said.
For more information about Fruzzetti and his research on Dialectical Behavior Therapy, go to Department of Psychology Fruzzetti page.