When May and I first started working and referring students and families to therapeutic programs, one of the treatments that kept getting mentioned was DBT: Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I kept asking people to explain two terms to me: DBT and also Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Although I had a psychology degree, these were terms that were being used often and not well defined.
I tend to look at the origin of words and at their literal meaning so I remember asking Dean Porterfield, who was then working at Duck River School and is now at Cumberland Heights what was this personality disorder on the “borderline” of? Dean was patient and laughed, but began to explain that people with Borderline Personality Disorder often have distorted views of themselves and others and could be seen as on the “Borderline” or to be truly psychotic…in other words, losing touch with reality. They often have histories of abuse, self-harm, and suicide attempts. They tend to see things and others in an “all bad” or “all good” light. Someone might be their new best friend one day and seen the next day as the hated enemy. This emotional dysregulation creates havoc for these folks. The “middle path” or “wise mind” approach of DBT helps these individuals to begin to understand that the world, particularly of emotions is typically not ALL good or ALL bad.
The analogy I like to use is the relationship I have with my husband, Steve. After being married over 25 years, I can make quite a long list of his faults and shortcomings! I can also make a list of many great qualities and positive traits. The “middle path” is the ability to see the extremes at the same time and to be able to live with the contradictions. On an emotional level, it means that when I see or feel myself getting into a negative thought pattern about him, that may be based on history, I need to stop and challenge myself… Is this thought going to help me? Is this thinking going to make me anxious or angry? Or calm and centered? Talking to myself’ and watching my dialect, so to speak, helps me learn to stay less on the extremes of emotions and to see things in a “both and” way rather than an “either or” way.
The video link below does a better job than I can of describing many of the concepts of DBT. If you have a thought that someone in your family suffers from a great deal of anxiety, depression, or a lack of emotional regulation, you may really learn something by watching this video! CLICK HERE