Therapy is great! It gives us the space to process our thoughts and feelings in an unbiased, judgment-free zone. It helps connect our thoughts, feelings and behaviors in ways that we might not otherwise notice. And, it allows us to see patterns in our behaviors that can often impede our growth.
But sometimes, we simply need to feel better. We need to soothe ourselves, or regulate our emotions, in order to do some of that processing and connecting work.
That’s where a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills group helps. DBT is an evidence-based treatment that helps us with mood regulation, mindfulness, impulsive behaviors, and strengthening our relationships. It provides us with active and behavioral skills and tools to use when we are feeling emotionally heightened.
When we feel like we are ready to explode, breakdown, scream, or punch a hole in the wall, that is not the time to process and explore our feelings. We do that after we’ve had some distance from our emotions, because we have to be vulnerable and willing to be curious about why it is present. But when it’s present, it feels all-consuming, and our main task is deescalate. Then, we can do the other work! But in order to get there, we have to use some DBT skills first.
How does it work?
DBT is split into four skill modules: mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. In each module, one learns over 70 skills! Mindfulness covers skills that allow us to be present and identify what we are feeling. Emotion regulation skills help us stay calm and collected, and help us identify when we need to decompress. Distress tolerance skills help us get through times when our emotions are really heightened, but we are in a place where we can’t address them (say, in an important meeting with your boss). And interpersonal effectiveness skills are tools that help us maintain and nurture our relationships.
At a DBT skills session, participants complete a weekly diary card that tracks the intensity of one’s moods, as well as which skills one uses throughout the week, and how helpful those skills are. Each session also covers skills to practice. Outside of the sessions, participants receive 15-minute coaching calls with an expert therapist (the therapist leading the sessions) to help review use of skills in challenging situations.
Why join a DBT group?
DBT is helpful for people experiencing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and impulsive behaviors. It helps us identify skills that we can use in the moment to alleviate our symptoms and strong emotions. DBT also helps us effectively set boundaries with others, and create that self-care/wellness plan that we can never quite seem to put into place, despite our best intentions.
Taproot Therapy is running a DBT group starting October 13! We love running DBT groups, and are excited for our next group. This group will run virtually for 10 weeks, every Wednesday from 5:30pm-7pm, and will be led by our lead clinician and DBT expert, Erin Iwanusa, and co-facilitated by therapist, Bridget Carey. During this group, we will complete diary cards, learn skills in each of the four modules, and leave you with a plan to utilize these skills. For more information, click here!
For more DBT skills check out our DBT blog, or listen to our podcast, Taproot Therapy: A Mindful Moment (we even have a DBT challenge that's available on our podcast!).
Opposite Action to Emotion
When our emotions become overwhelming, it can be hard to respond to them. If we feel depressed, we might feel stuck or trapped, and all we want to do is sit on our couch and mindlessly scroll through Instagram. Other times, we can feel so angry that we want to punch a hole in the wall.
But, instead of getting stuck on our couch, we call a friend and go for a walk. Instead of punching a hole in the wall, we pause and take some deep breaths. This is the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill, Opposite Action to Emotion.
Opposite Action to Emotion is a skill that helps us actively and behaviorally do the opposite of what we are feeling. Our emotions can often attempt to dictate our behaviors. And, our behaviors can directly impact our moods. Thus, if we do the opposite of what we are feeling, we will change our mood, and start to feel better.
How Does it Work?
Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all connected. For example, if I think, “I’m a loser, I have no friends, and everyone hates me,” I will start to feel sad or depressed. As a result of feeling sad or depressed, I might pull away from those who love me. I might binge eat, or misuse substances. But, if we were to change my thought to, “Right now, I feel lonely,” we might reach out to people we trust.
How to Practice Opposite Action to Emotion
First, identify what you are feeling. Name your emotion: sad, angry, depressed, anxious, worried, irritable. Once we can label our emotion, we know what we need to do to change it.
Next, do the opposite of what you are feeling. For example:
If you're feeling sad, do something that makes you happy: go for a walk, pet your dog, call your best friend, or watch a funny movie.
If you're feeling angry, do something soothing: wrap up in a soft blanket, light a candle, drink a cup of hot tea, or meditate.
If you're feeling anxious, do the thing that makes you anxious (but be safe. If you are anxious about walking home alone at 3am, don’t walk home alone at 3am)! If you are scared to speak to someone, speak to them. If you are nervous to go out, go out. If you are scared to ask for a raise at work, write out what you want to say and then ask for that raise!
The idea is that we stop engaging in behaviors that amplify our unwanted feelings, and start engaging in behaviors that help us feel better. As with all DBT skills, this takes time and practice in order to see results.
Create your own list of actions you can take when you are experiencing difficult feelings. What are the things you do that are opposite from how you are feeling?
Taproot Therapy, LCSW, PLLC
285 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016