*This is not meant to be medical advice. I am not a licensed healthcare professional. I am sharing personal experiences with this mode of therapy and what worked for me. Tips that helped me may or may not work for someone else.
*This post contains afflilate links. You can purchase items from my site and I will make a commission but you do not pay more for it
DBT stands for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. It was created by Marsha Linehan and is typically used to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. I have done this program twice and found it to be much more helpful the second time. If you have the option to repeat it, do it as many times as you need to. Where I live, there is a free program offered through the local hospital system, so it doesn’t cost anything to learn new skills or take the program multiple times. All you need is a referral from your doctor.
Distress tolerance is the first section of the second DBT program that I did. By the last week of this section and I found myself feeling very overwhelmed. In the full DBT program, there are three main sections – Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Relationships. A different skill is taught each and every week. This means 24 total skills over the course of the program! With only a week spent on each skill, I found that it is difficult to become proficient in any of them. I’ve also found that when it comes time to use a skill, I felt too overwhelmed by choices and didn’t have any of the skills committed to memory well enough to use.
I know that I can’t be alone in feeling this way so I decided to write a post about DBT skills and how to overcome the overwhelm that you may feel during a program.
Here is what I suggest to make the most out of a DBT program.
First of all, it is important to participate fully in your program. There are several ways to do this. Listen while you’re in a group, ask questions, pay attention to the experiences of other group members, take the time to do your homework each week, and practice the skills as many times as you can during the week.
Practice when you are feeling well
A lot of these skills – especially mindfulness – can be practiced at any time, in any situation. So when you are feeling good, take the time to practice them! This will make it so much easier to be effective when you are actually experiencing a difficult time.
Keep your manual close by
If you have your manual somewhere that you can see it, you are more likely to use it. When you are experiencing a difficult situation, you can easily open your manual and find a skill that will work for what you are going through. If your manual is hidden away, you may not think to use it.
Use Mindfulness Daily
This is repeating some of the points from the “practicing when you are well” section but I really want to stress its importance. Mindfulness is a big part of DBT as well as mental health in general and it can be used in numerous situations with any type of mental illness. In a future post, I will go more into detail about what constitutes mindfulness and the best ways to practice it, but for now, I’ll just say to practice it daily and it will become a habit for many life situations.
Use additional resources
There are many resources that you can use to compliment your program. Some examples are: finding peer support, purchasing a workbook (like the DBT workbook from Amazon), individual therapy, and books on Borderline Personality Disorder (e.g., I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me).
These are some of the tips that have helped me get through my programs without being too overwhelmed and finish DBT with some usable skills. Contact your doctor or local hospital to find out if there are any similar programs in your area.