What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?
“Dialectical means “the existence of opposites.” In DBT, people are taught two seemingly opposite strategies: acceptance (i.e., that their experiences and behaviours are valid), and change (i.e., that they have to make positive changes to manage emotions and move forward).” – CAMH
‘Dialectical’ refers to two seemingly opposite ideas that can both be true at the same time. DBT skills help us move away from ‘all or nothing’ thinking, toward greater mental and emotional flexibility. We can have a hard day without having to loathe school or work entirely; we can have a disagreement with someone and still consider them a friend, we can experience a disappointing moment, and still enjoy the rest of our day.
At NowWhat, we have flipped the perspective on DBT, which is typically used as an emergency intervention for adults, to a proactive, positive, strengths-focused (and FUN!) approach, adapted specifically for each age and life stage from age 7 to adults.
One of the stated goals of traditional DBT is “to define life goals, build self-respect and find peace and happiness. The goal is for the person to lead a life of ordinary happiness and unhappiness.” (CAMH). One of the key skills taught by our DBT-informed groups is tolerating non-preferred tasks or moments, and riding out the normal ups-and-downs of life without having them overwhelm you.
We love teaching DBT skills in a small group setting, so that participants can practice their skills in real time, with real life scenarios. Our groups are typically 12 weeks long and we offer graduated levels for different age groups, spiralling deeper into the concepts and building new skills as kids get older. We welcome minds of all kinds, and can also teach DBT-based skills via 1:1 coaching when appropriate.
Click here for a list of current group start dates!
The five modules of traditional DBT are:
- Mindfulness – bringing your whole self to participate in the present moment
- Emotional Regulation – riding out big feelings and expanding your ‘window of tolerance’
- Distress Tolerance – moving through discomfort, boredom, stress and frustration effectively (without making things worse)
- Interpersonal Effectiveness – seeing other perspectives, setting boundaries, getting what you need while protecting your important relationships
NowWhat DBT Groups build naturally on the skills and concepts learned in the previous course levels, so participants can continue to learn key skills with an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the material (‘spiral learning’). We begin our youngest participants with a largely body-based approach, helping them to recognize and label their emotions, and learn foundational calm breathing and self-soothing techniques to help them regulate themselves in times of stress. Each subsequent level adds more in-depth concepts and introduces more cognitive elements as young brains and bodies develop, all the way up to the adult and individual levels, with in-depth exploration of each concept, a full checklist of customizable skills, thought diaries and individual behaviour chain analysis.
Who is it for?
DBT training can benefit everyone as part of a healthy & balanced approach to life! GPs often recommend DBT as an invaluable tool for those managing challenges such as:
- Mood challenges
- Social-emotional difficulties
- Struggles managing school dynamics
DBT concepts inform our entire collaborative model at NowWhat, and we have created unique DBT-based curriculum for every age and stage (age 7 to adults, including adults with Intellectual Disabilities) that bring the skills and concepts to life in ways that are practical and relevant at every stage of life. The resources and activities are fun and relatable, led by experienced MSWs and Behaviour Coaches. We take a customizable approach that includes 1:1 coaching, group sessions and parent/family coaching sessions to form a unique and comprehensive opportunity to learn these essential social, emotional and life skills in a positive and affirming environment.
Why would we join?
The benefits of DBT are lifelong! Feedback from parents and graduates includes:
Leaders have time to really get to know participants over time so they can help them target specific personal challenges
Children & youth are supported while they make and maintain friendships with each other throughout the course (making new friends is a common highlight for course graduates!)
For children’s groups, constant parent feedback means we can use language and examples that are meaningful to your kids, helping them make real-life connections that make a positive difference to the dynamic in your home
- For adult groups, the solidarity and community formed with others who are ‘in the same boat’ is a huge benefit
- Gaining practical skills to have in their toolbox makes people feel more competent in their daily lives and better prepared to handle stress