Skills for a Life Worth Living

Skills for a Life Worth Living

DBT is based on the point of view that destructive borderline behaviors are the result of getting really upset (emotional dysregulation) or the attempt to avoid feeling really upset. Accordingly, DBT teaches clients how to deal with emotions and life stress in ways that avoid dysregulation and promote better relationships.

Many different skills are taught, which interweave and support one another to gradually help clients develop lifestyles that work better for them and their loved ones. There is no one magic bullet in DBT, but instead a large collection of techniques that collectively are powerful in helping clients build “a life worth living”.

DBT skills groups teach 4 modules: Mindfulness, Emotional Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. A fifth basic skill set — Self Management through behavioral techniques of positive reinforcement rather than punishment – is woven through the other modules.

Throughout the skills will be found the fundamental balancing act (dialectic) between acceptance and change. Appearing again and again is the paradox that only through acceptance of what is can be found the means to change it. Insofar as we usually exhaust ourselves in repetitive struggling against how things are, moving into acceptance is a change that opens new possibilities. This theme will be explored further in the pages on the specific modules.

Ideally, DBT skills are learned and supported in a group context. For Bay Area DBT Skills Groups, click here.

However, there are several good Books about DBT Skills below:

Useful Books for Helping Someone with BPD

Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by P.T. Mason and R. Kreger, (Oakland: New Harbinger, 1998). Written from the perspective of partners of people with BPD.

New Hope for People with Borderline Personality Disorder by Neil. R. Bockian, PhD, with Valerie Porr, MA and Nora Elizabeth Villagran, MA (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002). Valerie Porr’s chapter “Family Perspective of Borderline Personality Disorder” will be helpful to family members.

Books for Learning DBT Skills

Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha Linehan (New York: The Guilford Press, 1993). By the creator of DBT, the book has handouts used by most DBT Skills Trainers. The handouts are good for putting up on the refrigerator as reminders, but some additional explanation is needed. The first half of the book includes notes for trainers that could be read as explanation of the handouts.

Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control by Scott Spradlin, MA (Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, 2003). This book has useful explanatory text about the skills, as well as exercises and worksheets.

Depressed and Anxious: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook for Overcoming Depression and Anxiety by Thomas Marra, PhD (Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, 2004). This book also has explanatory text, some very good descriptions of mindfulness, and an alternate set of acronyms for DBT skills.

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