Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) requires commitment

People who have been diagnosed with BPD and who eventually learn about DBT are often turned off by the sheer amount of time it takes to go through the 26 week long course. I think some of them might even wonder, “What’s in it for me?”

If you can not make a commitment to it then it’s not for you

If you come into the course with that kind of question, there probably won’t be a lot in it for you. As I tell every single person with whom I work, DBT is not any kind of “passive therapy.” It’s a little bit different from showing up in your therapist’s office, plunking yourself down in the chair and saying, “Okay, fix me!” 

DBT is an active, hands on treatment protocol

The truth of it is, you get out what you put in. Yes, you have to attend class each week and that involves much more than just showing up and sitting there in passive attendance and just listening. It involves participation and action. The facilitators are there to guide you through the process but you have to take it all in, go home, do the homework and make the connections to your feelings and your behaviors all by yourself. When I finish up a course with someone and they tell me how thankful they are and how much things have changed for them I tell them, “That’s wonderful, but YOU did all the heavy lifting!”

Everyone who does DBT has a Eureka moment

I guarantee that you will have many eureka moments along your DBT journey. You will gain many new insights into what drives you to respond the way you do to the various prompting events you encounter almost daily. And you will walk away with the knowledge that even though you can’t simply turn your feelings on and off like a light switch, you can learn how to control how you respond to those prompting events.

My biggest DBT The revelation was

The biggest revelation for me was the day that the facilitator said, “Feelings are not permanent, they come and go, like waves on the ocean.”

Honestly? I had never thought of that before and it hit like a punch in the gut. For me, whenever I had been embroiled in one of my BIG feelings, it felt like there would never be an end to it. Although I knew (in my head) that I wouldn’t feel that way forever, I couldn’t seem to remember that when I was so deeply immersed in the feeling state.

TDBT skills gave you time to process

I think one of the best things that I took away from DBT is that the skills gave me time. Time to think and process the prompting event, time to decide how I was going to respond instead of just giving my long entrenched knee jerk reaction of anger.

Learning the difference between primary and secondary emotions was huge

Learning that my anger was a way to camouflage my feelings of hurt was also huge for me. I learned that anger is the secondary emotion which happened to me because I could not bear to face the primary feeling of hurt. Learning that gave me a new way to see the anger that lay so deep inside me and process it differently.

So, if you are honestly thinking about taking a DBT course, remember that it is not a silver bullet. It will not give you the miracle you might be looking for but ti will give you access to a lighthouse you can look to during the emotional storms will probably continue to experience. My DBT experience took about six months to fully “set.” That was with daily review and daily practice of my skills. So, no it’s not a miracle cure. You not only have to really, really really want it,you also have to really, really really work at it to make it stick. If you do, I can tell you that there is so much in it for you that you will be astounded by what it does for you! I promise.