What is DBT and why is it on my calendar?

Sometimes I offer classes, like DBT, that don’t seem like they belong with the rest of my offerings. There’s always a reason though. [Also, to be clear, this is not me leading a class so much as holding space for a peer-led group. I am not a state-licensed therapist and anyone in the group also needs to have a therapist with whom they work.]

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a tools-based form of therapy, created by Marsha M Linehan, that teaches people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others. It was originally intended to deal with borderline personality disorder and suicidality, but it has been found to be helpful for anyone who needs more tools. Some therapists use it in one-on-one sessions. It also works amazingly well as a class, where the group is not so much processing as they are learning how to use the tools. It does require the client to be willing to make an effort to feel better, because tools don’t help if you don’t use them.

DBT skills fall under 4 (or 5, depending on how you’re counting) umbrellas:

  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Distress Tolerance
  • and two tools that help you analyze how and why you do (or don’t do) things
    Insurance and the medical system being what it is in the US, there is often an emphasis on getting people through the skills training as quickly as possible. Kaiser Permanente in Southern California now limits people to a 6 week group, for example. DBT was initially designed to be a 9 month weekly class, and it was recommended that one go through it at least twice. Hopefully you can see the problem here.

    A handful of us were in a group being run by a woman who has retired, and there weren’t a lot of other options available, so we started a peer-directed DBT group. The core members have been through some or all of the material under clinical direction in the past, and we have the instructional materials. We have invited some other people in as we have seen fit. There are guidelines we have all agreed to, and we go over those every week.

    Because it is peer-directed, we have the luxury of going through the information slowly, in bite sized chunks, which helps with both assimilation of the tools and personal insight.

    One of my keynotes is Empowerment. Tools empower people. DBT is a modality that absolutely empowers people. Teaching someone to fish rather than handing them a fish, or having them talk about fishing, is incredibly empowering. That’s why I hold space for this.

    The group is invitation only, as it says on my calendar. If I have worked with you in some capacity in the past, and you are interested in learning DBT skills, reach out to me and we can talk about it.

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