10 Steps to Surviving a DBT Class

First time in a Dialectical Behavior Course? Don’t worry, I’ve been through several of them – the long ones and the short ones and have lived to tell about them all. A few years back I came up with a fun “top 10” list just for kicks and giggles, yet with some seriousness to help out the next few new groups coming in. These were things I would tell the new class members if I had the chance. No matter what kind of skill or coping tools group you are headed to, here are 10 things to remember:

10. All emotions and feelings are valid. For example, tonight (or on your first night), it is my guess you are feeling anywhere from awkward to scared to questioning if you are going to survive this. I was so freaked out my first night of class that I chose the chair right by the door so I could be out the door quickly if needed. Therefore, know that whatever you are feeling at this moment…..is ok.

9. The classroom is a safe place. Each of you will realize this in your own time, yet the group room is a safe place for everyone. In here you can let down your guard, breathe, relax, be yourself, and know you are among others. You are safe here, you are safe with your facilitators too.

8. You are not alone. No matter what brings you to this class, you are not alone. Someone will share and you will think “wow, I thought I was the only one who felt/thought that way.” Others may share experiences, that although are different, you can relate to.

7. Share. If I could have done something more in my classes, I wish I would have shared more. Sharing is scary (ha! See what I did there?). There is also a level of vulnerability that comes with sharing, and it is good practice to try it out in a place where you are not going to be judged or mocked. And through sharing, you will see that I am not lying about the whole “you are not alone” and “this is a safe place.”

6. Be ready to laugh. You are here to learn, grow, heal, and enjoy yourself. Don’t be afraid to enjoy the moment, and you will quickly learn, there will be many that are willing to laugh too. This is your time to just take it all in.

5. Work the program. You are in control of what you get out of this experience. Do the homework, share, listen, and contribute. The more you work the program, the more it will become part of your everyday life, and the healthier you will be. Immerse yourself in the experience.

4. Think positive about yourself. I am still learning this and I do much better than I used to. Put sayings like “I am of worth” in places you will see them regularly. Say them out loud and often. My monitor at work still has “I am ok and I am going to make it” taped to it from my first round of DBT class. Although you might not buy into it at the moment, just keep reading and saying them, it will come.

3. You cannot “screw this up”. Everyone in this class is at a different place in their journey through life – even your facilitators. We all learn differently, we all experience life differently, we are different. Each of you will have a different experience through the class. There is no way you can “screw it up.” No one fails here. You are not a winner for being here tonight because each of you are already winners, that status will not change – I promise you.

2. Be curious. I am continually told I have “seven-year-old curiosity” and I take that as a compliment. One way we learn and grow is by asking questions. Ask away – there is never a question that cannot be asked. Although one has the right to not answer, you always have the right to ask. Whether it is about the material or something else, let your curiosity run wild.

1. Your facilitators are human too. Just as you, they are human and they are learning and growing too. There will be times that they do not know an answer, or they might make a mistake, and that is perfectly fine. As well, they might say something that catches you completely off guard. In the end, they will as much from you as you will from them.

Bonus: Breathe. You will hear this said a lot. You will learn how to breathe, when to breathe, where to breathe, why to breathe…did I miss any? You will be asked at some point (ok, probably a lot), “are you breathing?” Learning about breathing will be a coping skill that you will have with you at all times and can implement at any moment. Breathing is a very good thing to do, and seeing that there is no cost involved with it, breathe away!!!!!