Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dialectical Behavior Therapy: One Earth-Shattering Crisis at a Time

"Just take it one gigantic earth-shattering crisis at a time."

- A plaque in our bedroom

As we recover from yet another crisis at our house, my husband and I are practicing mindfulness. You know: Stay in the moment. You are OK right now. Breathe in, breathe out, move on, as Jimmy Buffett suggests in one of my favorite songs. Adding mindfulness to our toolbox of coping skills has been a blessing, and it's certainly been supported by our centering prayer practice and the gifts of recovery.

What I didn't realize until now is that mindfulness is also a very important component in a useful new therapy for people with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and other conditions that result in dealing with very intense emotions. The therapy is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I'm reading a workbook about it ... basically because I bought it for someone else who doesn't want to read it. (Yes, I am caregiver in recovery for co-dependency. Why do you ask?)

"Don't Let Your Emotions Run Your Life: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control" by Scott E. Spradlin is a solid self-help workbook. My friends who are psychiatrists and therapists would be sure to point out that a workbook does not therapy make. But it's still interesting to me that observing and describing emotions in a nonjudgmental (i.e. without self-loathing) manner can help people who are predisposed to be overwhelmed by them.

The workbook urges us to let go of worry thoughts and "shoulds/musts/have tos." Just notice the thoughts and the feelings. Then focus on one activity, thought and feeling at a time. It says, "Do you best to handle the things that come your way, using your skills wisely and giving each activity your best shot."

That's good advice not only for people whose strong emotions tend to envelope them in crises, but for those who find themselves repeatedly cleaning up after them. 

No comments: