This is the next blog post in my therapy journey series. For the rest of the posts in this series click here.
I actually missed the first week of my DBT skills group as I had a hospital appointment but I got all the handouts from the first session. This means I know roughly what happened.
The session began with getting to know each other. I’m pretty sure this was just going round saying your name. This was followed by going through the rules for the group. These rules are to keep the group safe and ensure confidentiality. This was followed by going through the goals for skills group and the behaviours to be decreased and increased. This was linked into how they relate to each of the modules of the DBT group.
Then they looked at.how different characteristics of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) are helped by some of the different modules. In particular impulsiveness which can be helped by the distress tolerance module and confusion about self which can be helped by the core mindfulness module were mentioned. After this there was more information on the format of the sessions, the materials that would be handed out and how to fill in the DBT skills diary card. Then there would of been a short break as each session is two hours long.
After the break the group moved on to the first of the core mindfulness sessions of this module. This is what will be repeated at the start of the three modules of the DBT skills group. This started off by looking at what mindfulness is including the history behind mindfulness, why mindfulness is important and the goals of mindfulness. The goals of mindfulness here are to reduce suffering, increase happiness, increase control of your mind and experience reality as it is.
They then moved on to look at the different states of mind and what each of them are. There are three states of mind mentioned; reasonable mind, emotional mind and wise mind (see image below). The focus though is on the wise mind state and recognising what it is, and in particular this definition that it is “the ability to make healthy decisions about your life based on both your rational thoughts and emotions.” This was followed by an exercise to practice entering wise mind, using mindful breathing. And that brought this session to an end.
This was my first week and I was incredibly nervous, especially as I had missed the first week and because of the group environment. The session started with a recap of the previous week and seeing how people had got on with practicing the skills between sessions. This have me a chance to gain some insight into what happened the week before.
We then moved on to the new skills for this week which were core mindfulness skills again, which will be repeated at the start of each module. We started off by looking at the two different type of mindfulness skills; ‘what’ skills and ‘how’ skills. ‘What’ skills help us to be more mindful of what we are.experiencing, while ‘how’ skills help us to learn how to be both mindful and non-judgemental.
We then looked at each of the ‘what’ skills in turn. The first one was ‘observe’ where you try and stay present to the moment without labelling or describing it. We did an exercise to practice this skill. I found this tough. We then moved on to ‘describe’ where you use words or labels to represent what you observe. We then practiced this by looking at a leaf and describing it. This felt more natural. The final ‘what’ skill is ‘participate’ where you enter wholly into an activity. We practiced this by playing a game. I found this tough as I was extremely self conscious but I wasn’t the only one.
After a break we moved on to the ‘how’ skills. We started off with ‘non-judgmentalness’ where you aim to let go of judgements and focus on facts. We then did a couple of activities to practice this skill which is harder than you realise. The second ‘how’ skill is ‘in the moment’ where you aim to be completely in the moment, doing one thing at a time. The final skill is ‘being effective’. This is about focussing on what works and what is needed. We were then given instructions on how to be effective but it is a skill that confuses me. This brought the session to an end.
Overall I felt incredibly overwhelmed at the start of this group therapy. There was a lot of information to take in plus the anxiety of the environment. Hopefully with time it will get easier. If you are starting therapy my advice is to talk when you’re struggling and stick with it if you can.