What if someone could give you the keys to an emotional regulation toolbox?

A DBT toolbox is filled with valuable skills

A DBT toolbox is filled with valuable skills

What if you could be handed the keys to an emotional regulation toolbox? How valuable would that be worth to you? If you struggle with emotional dysregulation because you have BPD then DBT might be just what you need. But how do you access it? Where I live, in Canada, it is very difficult to access DBT. Unless you can pay a DBT therapist or someone trained as a DBT facilitator, it can be almost impossible to get into a class. Here, there is usually an 18 month waiting list.And, when you DO finally get into the class, it is usually a 24 week time commitment. So, what options are there?

There are some websites which have information about DBT, Below is a list of a few:

  1. DBT Centre of Vancouver

  2. DBT Self Help

  3. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy if you are in the UK


Having said this, I am not promoting or advocating any of these websites. I am merely putting the information out for you to look at. The other thing about DBT which is important to remember is that it is really not a “self-help” kind of program. DBT is taught in a group setting for several reasons. I started learning about DBT years and years ago. I can tell you that learning these skills has transformed my life in so many ways I never dreamed possible. I had had some rudimentary DBT skills training years ago and eventually managed to get referred to a bona fide DBT group. It was a life altering program for me.

If you want to get into a DBT class your first step should be to talk to either your psychiatrist/psychologist or other mental health provider. If you don’t have a mental health provider then discuss it with your family physician. But before you do either of those things you should read up about it so you are making an informed choice.

DBT is not for the faint of heart. It is not a miracle cure or any kind of silver bullet. It is hard work. I tell all the people with whom I work that you really have to be READY to make changes in your life because the program is emotionally taxing and challenging. You can not expect to just show up to class, sit down and get “fixed”. You will have weekly homework related to the skills you have been taught in the previous class and when you come back to class the following week there is an expectation that you will share how you put those new skills into practice and the kind of impact they had on you. If you don’t practice the skills you have learned, it won’t help you. This is a true case of use it or lose it.

DBT changes lives because it teaches coping skills that most of us who have BPD just have never had the opportunity to learn when they were younger.

There are four modules in each DBT class. They are:

  • Mindfulness

  • interpersonal effectiveness

  • emotion regulation and

  • distress tolerance.

Even though each skill builds on the others, they can be taught in any sequence.

The core foundational skill of DBT is mindfulness. Every skill  you learn in DBT will bring you back to mindfulness. Mindfulness means simply “being present in the moment”. It is very easy to learn how to practice mindfulness but it can be extremely difficult to master. There are many websites which can help people learn mindfulness techniques. Here are just a few you might find useful:

  1. Mindful
    This is a “free” site but they will ask you to sign up and then ask you to subscribe later on.

  2. Tara Brach offers dozens of mindfulness meditations on her website free of charge. I love what she has to offer.

  3. Another free site is Free Mindfulness.

When I first started practicing mindfulness I used guided meditation. I actually built my meditation time into my daily calendar (I use Google calendar because you can tell it to remind you about an event). When I would get my event prompt I would stop what I was doing and go and do my meditation. It was helpful for me to schedule it for around the same time each day.

I would then go into my bedroom which I normally keep fairly cool and dark. I’d lay down and put on my guided meditation and just close my eyes and listen to the voice of the guide. It’s important to remember that while you want to relax, you don’t want to fall asleep. If you are falling asleep you might want to sit up in a comfortable chair instead of laying  down. After about six months of doing this, I was able to graduate to doing it on my own and stopped using a guided meditation. I switched to listening to the sound of ocean waves on an app called Rain, Rain. It is available for free in the Google App store. I actually use this little app at night. I put it on around 10:00 and set it to play all night long. It helps lull me to sleep and helps me sleep throughout the night.

So, if you are thinking about trying DBT, start here. You might be surprised at how wonderful it feels to just “be” in your life!