Janette Patterson

MSW, LMFT, LCMFT


240.418.8022

DBT Skills Training

What is DBT?

DBT—Dialectical Behavior Therapy—is a cognitive behavioral therapy approach that offers strategies and exercises to address severe behavioral and emotional disorders.

Why DBT?

DBT offers an evidence-based structure and program of strategies and exercises to help individuals with struggle with feeling overwhelmed, highly anxious and unable to cope with their lives. Those individuals might have developed coping mechanisms that are putting them or others at risk.

DBT Skills Group:

DBT Skills generally help each person to learn how to regulate his or her emotions and act more effectively, improving their ability to achieve goals and improve relationships.

The DBT Skills Group is not a traditional process group where people share thoughts, feelings, opinions, and give feedback to one another under the guidance of a group leader. Rather, the DBT Skills Group is much more like a class. Certainly, sharing can and does happen and members can be supportive to one another as far as they are comfortable. Most of the time, however, the group is learning DBT skills in a classroom style format.

You will receive handouts, you will have homework assignments that you report on in group (as much as you are comfortable in doing) and you will get a chance to ask questions as we discuss each DBT skill. We generally start each group session with a mindfulness exercise and explanation.

DBT Skills Group is ongoing. There are five modules: Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, Walking the Middle Path and Distress Tolerance. You can join at the beginning of each module.

In order to join the group, you must be participating in ongoing DBT- informed (at a minimum) individual therapy. DBT-informed therapy means that your therapist understands DBT and can provide individual therapy that is supportive of DBT and does not get in the way of your progress. Sometimes people find it helpful to have a short term DBT therapist for a while until they are ready to go back to their original individual therapist.

Why DBT for Adolescents?

Especially during the adolescent years, the stress of growing up, dealing with school and academic pressures and navigating the social arena can put our teens in a tail spin - as well as the parents! DBT offers a curriculum of exercises that address 4 main categories, all exquisitely important to adolescent development:

  • emotional regulation
  • distress tolerance
  • interpersonal effectiveness
  • mindfulness

Why parent involvement?

While the ultimate goal is to instill DBT strategies for adolescents, it is vitally important that parents learn about these strategies to help and support their teens. Parents can function as coaches, prompting and reminding their teens of using their skills. Practicing interpersonal effectiveness skills within the family has a direct impact on improved family functioning.

Is DBT For You?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy can be helpful to anyone who has difficulty with emotions.

This difficulty might be in what is called regulating emotions. This means you might have trouble "being in control" of your emotions -- not in the sense of over-controlling or masking emotions, but in the sense of being able to handle emotions and not let them run your life. People who are able to regulate their emotions are able to experience emotions fully without letting their emotions get the best of them.

Sometimes people are so overcome by strong emotion that they find themselves doing anything to shut down the emotion. This can run the gamut from going shopping ("retail therapy") to eating to substance use and even self-harm. If you have ever found yourself unable to tolerate experiencing an emotion because it is too overwhelming or you just can't stand feeling a certain way, you will benefit from what DBT can teach you about emotion regulation.

Occasionally people are so miserable with their emotions that they engage in self-harm or entertain thoughts of death. Often this is simply an indication that they are overwhelmed with pain and just don't know what to do to feel better. DBT is particularly suited to helping these individuals. In fact, DBT was made with this type of situation in mind.

That said, however, it's my opinion that everyone can benefit from DBT skills. If you'd like to learn how to get what you want AND keep people liking you, then DBT is for you. If you'd like to learn how to stay focused and on track when difficult people make you angry, or when life circumstances create anxiety or distress, then DBT is for you. If you find yourself reaching for brownies when you are upset instead of tolerating your emotions well, DBT can help you too.

The most important component in DBT is commitment: Your commitment. If you are committed to making changes and doing what is most effective, DBT is an incredible value. •