Saturday, March 15, 2008

teen angst 101: dbt skills.

after reading harriet's most recent entry, "oh for fuck's sake", i started thinking about how often it is that the community of weight-related bloggers rip on these articles that make us die a little more inside. so many stupid things are said all over the internet and there's no stopping it. the part that really angers me is that so many of these quotes we burn are from professionals. whether or not they are professionals in the health field or professional editors, they have an impact on the country that lives in a food obsessed mind-set and they're not thinking before they shove their skeletal foot in their mouth.

there have been many cases in the past month alone where i find myself frustrated by the lack of dbt skills that i've had branded onto each half of my brain. you cannot "graduate" from any form of mental health treatment without really mastering and understanding these skills. now, i was extremely lucky to find that while my parents didn't know there was a formal name for it, they had raised me with some of this knowledge. what kills me is that too many people are lucky to even learn it in their lifetimes, let alone early enough (aka childhood).

let's discuss how imperative it is to spend years and years learning how to use numbers (my math teacher was right; they are everywhere), how to dissect classic american literature (yes...that's come in handy so many times since i graduated high school), and...insert something here that one of my 14 history teachers talked about that definitely i wasn't paying attention to. got it. these are the lessons that form our future, correct?

alright, great, we know how to count our change, read a book, and i think someone once told me segregation is bad (despite the fact that our country still judges you based on race). however, while we were learning that, 100% of the student body was fighting with their family each night, being told that they were worthless human beings if they received an A- or lower (or finished their dinner), were being denied treatment for mental disorders because some parents don't want to admit their child isn't perfect, and/or learning that heartbreak feels as physically painful as having a limb ripped off and then being beaten with it. so, why isn't there a class for that in every high shool? do you realize we have to learn to speak a foreign language before we're even taught how to properly communicate using our own??

we have to take physical and health education; where's my mental health education? is it such a taboo subject because it's not taught to us in school? this is, of course, excluding the psychology elective that teaches bipolar disorder as if it's as uncommon as the black plague.

dialectical behavioral therapy (dbt) should be a 3 year high school course (10-12). raise your hand if you just asked, "dia-what??" one...two...thre- is your hand up? stop stretching, you're screwing up my count...four...five... okay, so about...millions of you. huh. well, if you don't need to be in treatment, why would you need to know this, right? i will bet that the millions of you have needed to confront someone about pissing you off... or you smoke... or your stressing yourself into pancreatic cancer...
dbt is a form of therapy developed by psychologist marsha m. linehan with the purpose of treating bpd. now, it is used for treatment of nearly all mental disorders. however, i strongly believe that the skills being taught in this method are skills that may be more effective if used before the onset of whatever leads the individual to treatment in the first place. there is no person in this world that does not need to know what dbt is.

the dbt skills include:
  • mindfulness
  • distress tolerance
  • emotional regulation
  • interpersonal relationships
awareness, handling stress, dealing with emotions, communicating... these are things we should start learning in preschool!
on my right side, i've started a list of recommended books. more will be coming. i highly recommend at least checking it out. do i go about adding real life emotional skills to the K-12 curriculum and possibly eliminating eating disorders (and urges to commit homicide...) before they start?


carrie said...

DBT saved my life. One of the premises I like best is that they don't assume you popped out of the womb instictively knowing these skills. My parents did a decent job at modeling these skills, but part of the problem was that my personality was much more extreme, emotion-wise. So I think I needed more of a remedial course.

One of the best feelings I get now is knowing that I was effective in a particular situation- even if it didn't make me happy.

Anonymous said...

i could use some dbt skills right now. this bullshit with P&G is making me ill.

i'm pretty low on the distress tolerance scale. when i first read the P&G thing, i couldn't formulate thoughts on it because my brain was buzzing too loudly. when i finally could, i was just blinded and horrified and sick. all i could think of was how it's things like this that make me just want to give up and go hide in a hole and forget that the "civilized" world exists. sometimes it seems too futile to fight against these horrible messages.

i don't believe in giving up on the fight, of course, but i think it's extremely important that those of us so deeply involved in the issue are well able to handle the emotional stress. i'm still working on my own ability. my mother always said i had a soft heart. not a bad thing -- i think it makes for better kitten appreciation -- but it also means that i take things, very, very personally and seriously, and feel empathy and outrage at overflowing levels.

Nicole Laurent said...

I wanted to take a moment to let you know that I admire your blog. I also admire your honesty, insight and your ability to see how important it is that parents are able to put their ideas of perfection on hold long enough to seek out evidence-based treatments for their chidren and teens.

I am a clinical psychotherapist on the Eastside of Seattle, Washington with my own practice, and I am trained in the very modality of which you speak. Sometimes I wish I could clone myself and then be allowed by school administrators to teach DBT Skills Groups in every junior high and high school in America.

To make less painful the effects of a lifetime of familial and relational invalidation to a sensitive heart and soul is truly a job worth having. I am so glad the evidence-based treatments are becoming more common, but there are still over 75% of mental health professionals nationwide offering treatments that do not meet his level of efficacy to be onsidered as such.

Your work on this blog and the work of those who post upon it are going to do the work of making sure that your generation is much more savvy consumers of mental health services.

Needless to say, this makes me very happy.

May your days be as or bright and/or as sunny colored as the frozen concentrate your reference. And for those that are not, dear young lady, know that I for one am cheering you on.

Nicole Laurent, M.A., R.C.
Clinical Psychotherapist