Mental Health

What I’ve Learned in One Week of DBT

Today marks one week since I’ve started my new group therapy. I wanted to write a post about what I’ve learned so far in my one week of DBT, and how it is affecting my day to day life so far. I also wanted to talk about how it can help you guys.

What is DBT?

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It’s a therapy mainly meant for people with borderline personality disorder (like me!), which is a disorder mainly focused on fear of abandonment and black and white thinking (everything is either all or nothing). It basically challenges your thoughts and way of thinking, in an effort to refocus you on a healthier way of thinking. It has four parts: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance.

DBT was originally created by Dr. Marsha Linehan, who is a borderline sufferer. There are a bunch of books on it, but the main one (and the one I use in my class) is her book, which you can find here. It’s mainly meant to be done in a group setting, but I think it’s definitely helpful to do on your own as well. It has worksheets as well as handouts you can read through to learn the skills. I’ve also used this book before I started the group.

What have I learned?

We’ve mostly focused on the first tenant of DBT so far, mindfulness. Mindfulness is basically the practice of living in the moment.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

What we’ve learned so far is basically what mindfulness is, as well as a few practices for getting into a state of “wise mind”, which is when you’re neither coldly rational nor completely emotional. This involves some breathing exercises and other things like that, as well as a meditation exercise where we imagine slowly going down a spiral staircase into ourselves (I liked that one).

Today (I have my group on Wednesdays), we talked about different ways of practicing mindfulness, including just observing different things without being judgmental. This is really hard! There were people talking in the next room, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted them to shut up when our group leader asked us to observe. It takes a while to observe without judging, but it can be really dangerous to judge! I think that’s especially a problem with BPD, because you tend to think of things as either good or bad, not just there.

Another thing we learned was being fully present in the moment, which is literally impossible for me at this point. We were supposed to focus on what we were doing (being in group) and not multitask or let our minds wander. Even right now, I’m watching TV while I’m writing this post, and I don’t think I’d be able to just do one thing at a time – but DBT urges you to not multitask (what!!!). I think with some practice, this is something I’d be able to get a little better at. Our group leader said that she tends to be better at things when she is focusing fully on them, which makes sense – if part of your brain isn’t split off into a different realm, it seems like you’d be able to do things a lot better. I’m going to try and practice this skill while I’m working on my freelance work tomorrow.

How is this affecting my everyday life?

It’s not, really. I don’t think I’m used to it enough. I did practice one of my skills (using wise mind) earlier this week when I was feeling downtrodden about looking for work. I also tried to use it when I wanted to go shopping and knew it wasn’t a good idea, but I definitely ignored what my wise mind told me and went anyways (whoops). I think that’s a skill that needs to be exercised more, so I don’t just keep doing whatever.

What’s up next?

I have no idea! Honestly, I’ve just been trying to take it week by week (is that being in the moment?), so I don’t even know what we’re doing next week. I definitely have to do my homework for this week though!

I only have one week of DBT so far, but I think it’s been interesting – even if it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Have you guys learned any DBT skills? Could you try practicing mindfulness this week?

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