Mt. Diablo Psychological Services provides Dialectical Behavior Therapy in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, California

DBT skills training groups meet weekly for 1.5 hours and focus on four main subject areas or modules, as described below. Four to six weekly sessions are devoted to each module.

Four Main Subject Areas

1) Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness?

Think of a time when you were looking at something interesting, like a bug, a landscape, a baby or something else that absorbed your attention fully.   As you examined it, whatever else was on your mind fell away.   Perhaps feelings you were having just minutes ago disappeared–if only temporarily–because you were fully focused on the details of whatever you were observing.

Mindfulness is doing this purposefully and effectively, and it results in a momentary “break” from the rest of our life. It allows focus to be solely on the present, free of thoughts and feelings related to the past or future, as we attend fully to this one minute in time.

A great deal of research has been done on the effects of practicing mindfulness.   Study results have shown that it decreases people’s experiences of anxiety and depression and also that it decreases activity in parts of the brain associated with emotional reactivity and distress, while increasing activity in parts associated with emotional evaluation and reframing.

Why Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is often the first step needed for effective change.   It is crucial because it requires people to slow down and pay attention to what is going on from moment to moment. It gives us a point of observation, a point in time from which we can make new choices, rather than just act out of old habits, old patterns, of which we are only semi-aware.

How can mindfulness help me?

  • It allows the brain to learn that “this too shall pass.”
  • It allows you to to use awareness effectively to control your mind versus your mind being in control over you.
  • It increases self-trust. Mindfulness enables you to tune in to your gut feelings and know what feels right.
  • Attention to internal (eg. one’s body) and external (eg. one’s environment) signals allows for more effective self-regulation.
  • Awareness of a habit must precede any effective move to change it.

2) Distress Tolerance

Distress Tolerance is divided into two segments:

  • Crisis Survival Skills- this part of the module focuses on helping clients get through the “crisis,” or most difficult moments, as effectively as possible without engaging in behaviors that might make things worse in the long run.
  • Acceptance Skills- this part focuses on building a way of handling life that does not involve fighting against what is unchangeable like the past.

3) Emotional Regulation

The Emotion Regulation Module teaches you to examine and delineate different parts of the emotional response, to understand how changing one’s habitual response can increase effectiveness and to learn ways of decreasing emotional reactivity.

In this module, we teach skills for understanding and changing emotional responses, reducing vulnerability, problem-solving and opposite action.

4) Interpersonal Effectiveness

In the Interpersonal Effectiveness Module, you learn a set of skills for the skillful management of conflict in your life.

Techniques to improve relationships include viewing any interpersonal exchange as complex and dynamic.   To effectively cope in relationships, it is best to accept principles like: 1) the behavior of others makes sense to them on some level, 2) we are all doing the best that we can given all of the life experiences and biological factors that each of us are influenced by, and 3) with the necessary skill and practice, we can generally discuss and resolve conflicts when they arise.