Why DBT skills in schools?
Dialectical Behavior Treatment (DBT) is the most researched and proven evidence-based treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder or emotion dysregulation and has now evidence for being effective with many other mental health issues. While core concepts of DBT can be critical to people living with emotional dysregulation, these concepts are also very useful to everyone.
So what is it about DBT that would be useful to everyone? Here are two of the most powerful reasons:
- Life coping skills
We all experience problems controlling our own emotions. Can you think of a time when you wish you had not blown off the handle or you had approached a difficult situation differently? Perhaps with your child, adolescent, partner or at work? Have you experienced emotions taking over and making already difficult situations worse?
Enter DBT skills...One of the core objectives of DBT is to give us a number of proven effective tools to control our emotions and to get past difficult situations without making things worse. These techniques have been proven effective for people living with high emotional reactivity and vulnerability such as people living with emotion regulation disorder so it is not surprising that these techniques can also help everyone else get their own emotions under control.
- Validation skills
We all experience problems interacting with someone else whose emotions are out of control. Talking to someone whose emotions are out of control is very difficult to say the least. Anything you say or do seems to get that person more emotionally aroused. This situation can and often does cause our own emotions to rise leading to conflict escalation which can turn very quickly into a crisis. You may say: "It's not my fault; the other person was just not listening to any of the reasonable things I was saying". And you may be right, your well-intentioned suggestions were not been heard, so what can we do in that case?
Enter DBT validation... DBT makes extensive use of validation techniques based on mindfulness and acceptance. With validation we use empathy and compassion in a non-judgmental way to recognize and acknowledge other people's feelings even if we don't agree with their behaviour. We let the other person know that we somehow get how their behaviour and actions make sense from their perspective, even if there are more effective ways to deal with the situation. It turns out that validation has been proven effective in bringing down someone else's emotions. This is extremely important because research shows that a person in a state of high emotional arousal will not listen or consider problem solving advice, even if following that advice is exactly what would help them get past the moment. Once the person that is dysregulated has been validated sufficiently their level of emotional arousal will come down enough for them to consider problem solving. Validation has been proven effective to bring down emotions of people living with high emotional reactivity and vulnerability such as people living with emotion dysregulation so it is not surprising that validation can also help bring down emotions on other people.
Just as important is self-validation, to learn to be kind to ourselves so that we can live in the moment and accept our situation in the here and now so that we can be more effective in the next moment.
It is the balanced combination of validation skills and coping skills that makes DBT so effective. While learning the basics of DBT-speak is not difficult, learning to master these techniques takes time, and as with anything else, it is best to try these techniques slowly, in low risk situations at first, to get fluent with the approach. Eventually our DBT-speak becomes second nature and comes out instinctively when we need it the most.
More than just mindfulness - while mindfulness is a core module in DBT, sometimes, for people experiencing very intensive thoughts and emotions, at first, learning mindfulness can be akin to leaving your hand on the fire. With DBT there are many other skills available to tolerate distress, regulate our emotions and improve our inter personal effectiveness. While the goal is to be mindful and operate in wise mind, DBT uses both acceptance and change strategies to allow the person to "get there" at their own pace and without judgment - what is easy for someone can be difficult for someone else, and that's OK. Acceptance leads to change and change to acceptance - one is no more important than the other.
Imagine teachers students and parents practicing DBT skills and validation in their interaction with each other. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How many difficult situations would be averted causing pain and suffering?
- How many people, in a validating environment, would feel the stigma removed for reaching out for help with mental health issues?
- How would such an environment help curb bullying?
- How many people could feel the confidence and empowerment to reach out and support or help someone in need?
- BPD is at its core a coping-skills deficit, in such a validating and skillful environment how many people that would have otherwise developed BPD or other mental health issues would now avert the disorder or mental illness altogether?
- How would successful outcomes in such an environment prove contagious to other settings? Universities, Medical institutions, work, etc.?
- How much money would be saved during crisis interventions such as ER Hospital visits, counselling due to suicide or suicide attempts?
- How many would not end up in penal institutions?
So are we the only ones that think that teaching DBT skills and validation in schools would be beneficial? Not so. In conversation with Dr Marsha Linehan's during the NAMI convention in 2012 she said that teaching DBT skills at school is exactly what is needed. And others are pursuing in this direction as we speak. Here are a few:
Alec Miller, PsyD is a consultant to numerous DBT research studies internationally as well as to 4 school districts in Westchester County NY that have begun implementing DBT in their schools.
James B.Hansen, M.Ed. authored a presentation on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in the Public Schools which was presented at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Convention in 2012. It talks about a very successful DBT program implementation at Lincoln High School in Portland OR.
- We are all doing the best we can and we can all do better...
- Let's remove stigma from mental illness and Borderline Personality Disorder...
- We are all in this together, you are not alone...
- Validation before problem solving...
- Emotion Regulation Disorder is the new name for Borderline Personality Disorder...
- Let's teach DBT skills in schools...
- Let's intervene, let's intervene early...
- Show me compassion and empathy first, don't just tell me how to change
- Let go of judgments and believe in me so that I can believe in myself
- Accept me so that I can better accept myself
- We are all doing the best we can and we can all do better next time
- Take care of yourself then you can attend to others
- Be mindful - Observe, describe, participate effectively
- Observe your own emotions rise and that of others, pause then engage effectively
- Strive to be wise, not just rational or emotional
- Change what you can, accept what you cannot
- Validation is not agreement
- Validate, Validate Validate
- Be supportive, let go of judgements
- We can't control having strong emotions but we can change how we respond to them
- Hope is everything and is always there even when I cannot see it
- BPD is more common than Schyzophrenia and Bipolar Disorder combined 6%
- The suicide rate of BPD victims is 400 times that of general population
- BPD is the third leading killer of young women between the ages of 15-24
- 1 of 5 seek help, 4 of 5 benefit from treatment
- 4,000 young people die by suicide per year in Canada
- I am not the disorder. I am a person/li>
- Stop the Stigma - by Speaking Up
- Living with BPD is like not having an emotional skin
- Genetic vulnerabilities and invalidating environment could lead to BPD
- Mindfulness is not what you think
- Mindfulness is being present moment to moment
- Mindfulness is just observing, paying attention to non-judgement
- Patience, trust, non-striving and acceptance
- Mindfulness does not come by itself..it takes practice
- Let your breath be your anchor to observe thoughts as they arise
- Observe thoughts as they come and go like waves on the ocean
- Pay attention to what you are actually paying attention to
- What we frequently think we become
- Turning my auto-pilot off
- Only that day dawns to which we are awake - Thoreau Walden
- It is a radical act of love to just just down and be quiet for a time by YOURSELF
- You are HERE!
- Make each moment count!
- I am a valuable part of all that EXISTS
- I am Love. ALL is Love
- The practice of mindfulness is not to follow your heart but to train your heart
- It's OK, let it be
- Smile at thoughts, they are empty. The only power thoughts have is the power you give them
- The benefit will come to your life with consistent mindfulness practice everyday
- Whatever you do to make it mindful!
- Kindness is pure wisdom
- Mindfulness is free or craving, want or hate
- Be gentle to yourself as well as others
- When you feel connected to someone that connection gives you purpose
- Practice kindness whenever possible. It's always possible - Dalai Lama