Monday, November 29, 2010

Step 1, step 2, step...what?


We have had a request for more understanding on a certain topic, and I wanted to take a moment and cover it. I appreciate specific questions and recommendations.

So the question was, what is the first step to DBT? That is a great question and there are so many ways to answer it. However, I feel it would be most important to start from the very beginning. Before you get to DBT, or  any therapy for that matter, you need willingness. You must be willing to put a lot of hard work and effort into this. DBT is very different than standard therapy. It takes a large commitment and a lot of patience. Of course, it goes without saying that it is all very worth it. This commitment needs to be formal. My experience with this form of therapy came in the way of a contract with myself. Many have shared this approach. DBT will be way too overwhelming if you do not commit to it. You have to work the program in order for you to see differences in your life. Learning the skills haphazardly and sporadic will end up being more frustrating than good.

Once you have committed to DBT, the next step would be, analysis. You will need to start to get to know yourself in ways that you probably have never realized is possible. It is suggested to keep a record of your days. Something quick and easy, like a diary card. The information that you will want to keep track of is, how your day has gone (rating from 1-10, maybe) make brief mentions of any issues you may have had and you'll want to rate your self-injury urges, suicidal thoughts and urges to quit the program. This record should be kept on a daily basis. This information will come in handy as you start to look deeply into your habits, your tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. Take some time to assess your current situation. I have posted a series of entries regarding this assessment. Please take a look at them. July 11th-18th, 2010; July 18th-25th, 2010; and July 25th-August 1st, 2010.

What will start to emerge will feel somewhat like a jumbled mess. But it will all start to make a whole lot of sense as you become adept with the skills. The idea is, you will Observe, Describe and Participate in your own experiences. You will learn how to make these observations and put words to them non-judgmentally by practicing mindfulness exercises. These mindfulness exercises will also come in handy during crisis or distress. If you take a detectives approach to your experiences you will start to see patterns, cycles and triggers. You will be able to identify behaviors that you want to eliminate, you will start to clearly see what events precipitate those ineffective behaviors, these will be your triggers. You'll learn about your triggers too, in fact chain analysis worksheets will come in handy for this.

Ultimately, the process will take you from having a blinded awareness of yourself, to a wide, bright self-awareness that will bring change and ultimately a life that is worth living.  You will no longer stumble through life walking into one trigger after the other with ineffective living in virtually every direction. You will be able to live a life that can be virtually symptom free of your mental illness. There may not be a cure for a lot of the mental illnesses out there, but we do not have to be a prisoner to the symptoms, we can take our lives back. We can be in charge of our experiences. DBT has done that for many, and I recommend it to all. This was a really fast forward and brief introduction to the world of DBT, please stay with us and learn as we do. Share your experiences with us and allow us to share ours!

MJ