Continuing on from last week, I’m going to go over some basics about how DBT works.
First, there’s the way the therapy is set up. Instead of just having a patient with one therapist for one on one sessions, there’s also a group. It’s not a group like you’ve seen on TV or even in other settings, it’s a group where everyone is learning and practicing the same skills. Group sessions in DBT are more like classes where everyone discusses the assignment.
Individual therapy is where you work on things specific to your own needs.
The group sessions were actually fun, for me. One that I enjoyed was when we all had to do an assignment where we were to settle ourselves, take a deep breath, and just allow our mind and emotions to do their thing, without judging anything as “good” or “bad.” I went in feeling uneasy and frustrated because I really sucked at that one when I started it! I was utterly incapable of having any thought or emotion without placing a value on it. It looked like this:
Me: I’m relaxing, I’m breathing, I’m….
Brain: Canned spinach is bad.
Me: Well, yes, but what does that have to do with…?
Brain: It’s slimy and gross.
Me: uh… please stop I need to do my therapy homework…
Brain: I saw canned spinach at the grocery store, what nasty people buy that? They’re digusting and gross, just like canned spinach.
Me: I’m never going to get this done, am I?
(Feel free to laugh, I know… I do know!)
Well, it turned out EVERYONE had struggled at least on the first few tries. Those who had found any measure of success were able to describe how they did it and the rest of us were able to manage the exercise after that because we all learned from one another. It was like that every single group session we had.
I’ll do more on the skills next week, but the basic components are three parts: Mindfulness, Interpersonal Skills, and Distress Tolerance. Mindfulness in this setting is NOT the way it’s been marketed to the masses. Mindfulness is about training your mind to not dwell on the past or the future. It’s not a gimmicky thing of “Oh just be in the moment and nothing else matters.”
Putting it very simply, mindfulness and DBT in general not only changed my life, but saved my life. They are that powerful. Learning to be mindful, to handle stress in any fashion as opposed to having no skills for stress management, being able to tell people no, or yes, or ask for what I needed – it changed my life, and no I didn’t have those skills ahead of time, which is why I was suicidal. I had no control over my life, my time, my thoughts, my emotions, nothing. It’s a really awful place to find yourself, and knowing that I was there and learned how not to be is why I’m doing my blog this way. I don’t want to leave others in pain if I can help them to discover a pathway out of that kind of hell.