Dialectical balance is the cornerstone of this treatment, and so the name Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The behavior part means that we take specific actions (DBT skills) to improve our lives. We do not first try to feel better in order to act better. Instead, we act better in order to feel better.
Letting Go of the Critic
So our focus is on what we do, what skills we practice. Most people who come to skills have a habit of mind that is self-critical. Their inner thug runs around and points out all the ways they fall short. It is a fact that humans will do more of what they pay attention to, so if we pay attention to failure, guess what? We get more failure. And if we pay attention to success, even little bits of success that we might want to dismiss as trivial, we get more success!
The First Dialectic: Accept All That is
When people come to DBT skills class, they come to learn new skills. And at the same time each person also shows up with a set of skills already in use. One of the main dialectics in
DBT is that while we need for things to improve, we are at the same time doing the very best we can. So half the time our job together is to identify skills you already know and use, and the other half the time is to add new skills.
DBT Skills are Life Skills
At Maple Leaf, a person does not have to be suicidal to enroll. People with all kinds of struggles join our class. Anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, perfectionism, can't get going, can't slow down, can't speak up, can't stop blurting, relationship problems, too much passivity, too much anger, too much shame, too much anxiety, too much fear, drug or alcohol abuse, problem gambling, problem eating - these are some of the troubles our students face. While there is little scientific evidence that tells us skills training helps in these areas, most people find many very useful and basic life skills that everyone needs to get along. Our class is open to any adult (age 18 and above) who wants to learn and practice skillful means in the following areas:
Mindfulness: going within to understand what is true despite the ups and downs of our feelings or the world around us
Distress Tolerance: surviving crises without making life worse, and living gracefully with pain we cannot change
Emotion Regulation: reducing unwanted negative feelings
Interpersonal Effectiveness: asking for what we want (and saying no) in an
Standard DBT has two components: individual therapy and skills training. Maple Leaf DBT offers the skills part. We do not require our students to be in individual DBT, but we do need them to be in some kind of therapy. Lots of our members already have a therapist they know and love, and are looking for skills training to give themselves a boost. And at the same time we are happy to talk with prospective students about individual therapy. You can also find DBT therapists on our resources page.