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Dialectical Behavior Therapy and BPD
Words and Image by Andi Chrisman
*Editor’s Note: DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is a highly regarded cognitive treatment for patients of Borderline Personality Disorder. It has also been used to treat other mental disorders. This piece was also featured on On the Grid Zine August 26th, 2015.
“I wasn’t abused as a child. My childhood was relatively unexciting,” I told the therapist as she sat in her office chair. I sat on the couch across from her. I picked the couch instead of the individual chair beside it, even though I was alone, because it was more centered in the office.
The office had a few pieces of art on the wall, none of which particularly jumped out at me. The art was all abstract though, which I appreciated as a fellow abstract artist. A large whiteboard hung on the wall in the corner. Underneath the whiteboard hung a white piece of paper with the following in black text:
4 Options for Responding To Any Problem:
-Tolerate the Problem
-Feel Better About the Problem
-Solve The Problem
On her desk sat a small laptop, a phone, notebook, and some items for organizing papers. Above her desk were a few certificates to show her credentials and a bulletin board with what I assumed were personal snapshots of her family and friends. The only picture I could make out well was of a young boy.
To my left was a small table with a very appropriately placed box of tissues, as I probably will owe her more in tissues than I do per private session. Also on the table was a plant and a regular Magic 8 ball that had the words “Wise Mind 8 Ball” taped to it. This table sat between my over-sized couch and the small chair that would have been more logical to sit in. Regardless, this couch would become my home and I’d never even test to see if that chair was more comfortable. Here, I was home.
To the right of my new home was a bookshelf with a wide variety of books, CDs, and DVDs on different psychological subjects. Many of them were about Borderline Personality Disorder.
And that’s why I was here. I had already been diagnosed as a Borderline a few months before as I sat in the psychiatric ward of my local hospital. They were familiar with me there; it wasn’t my first or last stay. I was on a first name basis with all of the nurses. I knew which foods were safe to order from the cafeteria and which should be avoided. I had already read through many of the dated magazines provided in the hobby room to keep patients busy. I was familiar with the schedule and the way things worked. I liked this familiarity and whenever life became too hard or my emotions too strong, I would swallow a bottle of pills and call 911, to eventually find myself back where it was safe and my problems seemed so far away.
The therapist in this office was a pretty young woman named Jenn. I was at this appointment for her to validate that I really had BPD and was an appropriate match to officially join the DBT group program. DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a younger therapy designed specifically for those with BPD.
Jenn was one of the co-facilitators of the group I would join. She would also become my therapist and my most trusted confidant, though I didn’t know that at the time. Right now, I just had to prove to her that I met the criteria and that I would benefit from the outpatient program while being safe to the others that were currently enrolled.
By this time, I had finished that first book I picked up on BPD. I had also finished a second and a third book. I had spent time online, looking up information on BPD. Some personal stories, some doctors accounts, and some things that were just fucking wrong. I had enough knowledge at this point to be able to distinguish between incorrect and correct information. There was, and still is, a lot of misinformation regarding BPD. This misinformation isn’t just limited to the internet though. Unfortunately this misinformation remains strong in the professional psychological community itself!
I had less than an hour to tell Jenn my story. From all my research on BPD, I knew what details I needed to cover to ensure she knew what she needed to know to make an accurate assessment. That makes it sound a little like I was “stretching the truth,” but that was never necessary. I was obviously Borderline, but I was scared that maybe this woman, though she was a specialist in DBT, might be one of those misinformed doctors. And, as I said, I barely had an hour to tell an entire life’s story. This story had to include my previous history of mental illness before my BPD diagnosis; a list of experiences in psychiatric hospitals; how I came to be an addict and my drugs of choice; and the “invalidating environments” that I believed, ahem, “caused” me to developed Borderline Personality Disorder. I had a lot to cover and there was no reason to lie. I was beat down, I wanted help, and lying about any of it wouldn’t do me any damn good. I just had to tell the truth in an articulate and concise way, without rambling too much about one part or another.
My initial interview with Jenn ended successfully, because she told me I would be a good fit and I could benefit a lot from DBT. She said she would report back to Irene, the therapist who had sent me to Jenn.
I had only met with Irene once before Jenn, and we had a similar interview to what I had just had with Jenn. But Irene had limited hours and worked in a further part of town. She was the one who told me to see Jenn about getting into their group therapy program. As I thought about it, it made more sense for me to see Jenn as my regular AND group therapist and skip “the middle man.” I called Jenn to be sure this situation worked for her and she said she’d be happy to work with me. We made an individual therapy session for the next week.
It was official. It was January 2, 2012, and I was in DBT.
#Real #OnTheGridZine #MentalHealth #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder #DialecticalBehaviorTherapy #Recovery
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