A Little DBT

Posted on January 15,2013 by sdmosaligantimspp

As a second-year psychology student, you hear a lot about DBT ("Oh, DBT is so great"), but never really get an opportunity to thoroughly learn about it. Luckily, my practicum site, Wheelock College, hosted a DBT training for staff and interns. Originally developed by clinical psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan to be administered to treat those with "borderline" personalities, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, given its simplicity and elegance, could be applicable to almost anyone looking to quell their distress or anxiety.

Overall, DBT is based on the concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness. One aspect of the model that really resonated with me is the notion of Crisis Survival Skills, which encourages people, amidst an "unsolvable" crisis (a crisis not yet solvable at the present moment), to resort to healthy distracting or self-soothing skills. You might find these helpful for yourself or your practice:

Distract involves seven options based on keeping the mind and body temporarily healthily occupied: Activities (i.e. reading; exercise; hobbies); Contributing (i.e. volunteer; helping a friend); Comparisons (i.e. "my situation could be worse"); Emotion (i.e. uplifting music); Pushing away (i.e. mentally putting your problems away on a shelf); Thoughts (i.e. counting); and Sensations (i.e. holding piece of ice). Self-soothing, which is based on the senses, involves five parts geared toward soothing the mind and body: Vision (i.e. soothingly decorated home environment); Hearing (i.e. a lullaby); Smell (i.e. candles; "kitchen" smells); Taste (i.e. tea); and Touch (i.e. a massage; soft sheets).

Although I am not formally trained in DBT, I am excited to recruit such a model in sessions to facilitate my clients' ability to get through. The brilliance of the model is its refreshing, cut-to-the-chase simplicity, reinforcing to clients the notion that they already possess some skills for surviving their crises... they just need to consciously recognize such skills and try them out!

Clinician Acey and intern Emily and the feast of food at the DBT training. :) Clinician Acey and intern Emily and the feast of food at the DBT training. :)