"Acceptance & Change for Significant Others"
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Skills Program
*Facilitated by DBT trained therapist, Bree Rhodes*
Are you finding it hard to cope in your relationship with a friend, family member, partner, or coworker with poor mental health? Have your personal supports and self-care practices fallen by the wayside while you try to manage crises and distress in the relationship? Do you find yourself saying "I've tried everything!"?
While most therapies focus on the individual with mental illness, there tends to be less support for their Significant Others. For this reason, I now offer a 13-session program *tailored specifically for Significant Others* based on the principles of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills to help Significant Others cope with distress, manage emotions, set boundaries, and (re)engage with healthy supports.
What is DBT?
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based treatment approach designed by Marsha Linehan to help people deal with overwhelming emotions without losing control or acting destructively. This type of therapy assumes that the more we try to avoid, control, and struggle with our thoughts and feelings, the more overwhelming they get. This is not helpful, and increases our suffering. Alternatively, we can learn over time how to face our emotions, look at our thinking, and choose new ways to cope, live, and grow.
What does "dialectical" mean?
The word 'dialectical' refers to 'dialectics,' which in DBT means making room for our conflicting needs and wants in our emotional and mental worlds. It is like making peace with both acceptance and change. Through DBT, we learn to experience our emotions—as uncomfortable, unwanted, and incompatible as they may be— and develop the skills to cope with the distress that arises when we are faced with our own inner struggle and pain. DBT encourages us to critically look at what is working in our lives, and at what is not, for the purpose of making changes that will help us lead a valued life.
How can DBT help me as the 'Significant Other'?
DBT is an evidence-based treatment approach for a wide array of behavioural, emotional, and psychological concerns including, but not limited to:
Behavioural Addiction (e.g. alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, smoking, etc.)
Mood Disorders (including Bipolar Disorder)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Personality Disorders (including Borderline Personality Disorder)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Suicide & Self-harming Behaviours
Being in a relationship with someone who has poor mental health can take a significant toll on you, the Significant Other. While you are trying to do the best you can to cope, chances are that you are looking into alternative supports and therapies because you, too, are struggling with at least one of the above named behavioural, emotional, and/or psychological concerns.
DBT skills are essential for all of us, mental illness or not. Regardless of the nature of your relationship, you will benefit from learning how to more effectively navigate life stressors and internal conflict and distress, while living a life full of meaning and purpose.
Also, engaging in this program for yourself while your Significant Other engages in the traditional DBT program (also 13 skills-based sessions) increases the likelihood of successful and sustainable outcomes because you are both learning complimentary skill sets simultaneously. You begin to learn a new shared language and have a greater understanding of the changes both are making in your relationship, creating a greater space for mutual support and growth. Relationship therapy sessions are also offered.
The program addresses these five skills:
To focus more fully on the present moment and less on the painful past or worrisome future
To cope with painful events that hurt but cannot be changed
To relate to feelings in less reactive and destructive ways
To express beliefs and needs, set limits, and negotiate solutions to problems while protecting relationships and treating yourself and others respectfully
To identify values and what matters most in life, and to take action that is guided by these values
In this tailored program for Significant Others, you will also be introduced to the program with psychoeducation surrounding the nature of your relationship (i.e. What's going on in your relationship and why?).
Recommended DBT books and resources:
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Matthew KcKay, PhD, Jeffrey C. Wood, Psy.D, Jeffrey Brantley, MD
Dialectical Behavior Therapy in Private Practice by Thomas Marra, PhD*
*This is written for clinical use by professional practitioners.
The following links have useful resources that cater to experiential learning and practice of DBT. Click on the link for more information:
Marsha Linehan resource pages:
DBT resource pages: