The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, ... (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) Spiral-bound – September 11, 2019
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This year, I almost lost the love of my life because of my constant mood swings, negative thoughts, suicidal tendencies, degrading myself through words and action, overreacting to everything in the worst ways, aggressive and abusive behavior, and generally being a complete nightmare to be with. I looked around for ways to cope, and I don't know how, but I came across Dialectical Behavior Therapy and it's supposed miraculous results. I thought I had borderline personality disorder, so I found this book and purchased it while seeing a therapist. She diagnosed me with clinical depression with post traumatic stress disorder. She highly believes that I can still use the workbook for DBT even if I wasn't borderline. So, I went straight to work.
My God. I don't know how to describe the book, but it was like finding a true blue best friend who wants to tend to your wounds and heal you from the inside out. This book encompasses all four modules of the DBT, which includes:
1. Distress Tolerance
3. Emotional Regulation
4. Interpersonal Effectiveness
Each one has two chapters, one "basic" and one "advanced", except for mindfulness, which has an extra third chapter to explore this skill further. Distress tolerance has showed me how to self-soothe myself through developing healthy hobbies, pleasurable activities, 'pushing away' a negative thought or emotion until you calm down, and pleasing yourself through your five senses, such as sucking on a candy when upset. Mindfulness has showed me how to meditate and how to practice noticing the physical reality around me to cope with distressing emotions and thoughts, being in the moment in everyday activities, to be non-judging of both the physical reality and the mental/emotional disturbances and to let the negative things go. Emotional regulation has taught me to identify and label emotions (without judging myself), reduce vulnerability from the 'emotional mind', to practice using my gut instincts (wise-mind), to observe and peacefully let go of negative thoughts and emotions, and to ride out the waves of intense emotion without having to physically react and do something dangerous to myself or others. Finally, interpersonal effectiveness has taught me how to ask for things respectfully and assertively from others without feeling guilty to avoid being aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive, that it's okay to expect certain things from people (provided it is healthy for the two of you), to say no without losing relationships, and to avoid confrontations from blowing up and leaving behind damaged relationships.
It took me a couple of months to complete this workbook but it has changed me for the better. My partner has seen the positive changes in me and couldn't be more happier. Here's a quick lesson that really has helped me with my negative emotions- sometimes we overreact and blow up because we have not been taught how to express our emotions and instead, bottle it all up inside until we boil over. It is crucial to express how you feel, for example, when somebody unintentionally hurts you, tell them, "I feel upset when you said that." in a calm voice. You'll be amazed how apologetic people get when you are honest with your hurt feelings, provided you stay calm and use "I" messages. I am able to stop fighting with my partner and everyone in my life just by doing this. Even when I'm alone and feel upset, I say the emotion out loud: "I feel sad!" I know, it sounds silly, but this simple technique is amazing at managing difficult moments in life. You have a RIGHT to your emotions, even if they feel bad. I promise! :-)
If you have depression, anxiety, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and other array of mood-wrecking disorders, please please PLEASE save yourself and buy this book. Read it cover-to-cover, do all the exercises even if it feels annoying at first, and take all the time to complete each chapter. This is not a race to the finish line; this is your LIFE. I look at the world now with a healthier pair of glasses and I know I can withstand the challenges that will come my way, thanks to this amazing work. Matthew McKay, if you are reading this, know that you have saved a young woman from killing herself and ruining the lives of those who love her very much. You have done a wonderful service to those who feel that they are damaged forever, and you gave me the light at the end of my dark tunnel of mental illness. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Happy healing to everybody! Don't ever give up on yourself! You are loved!
The actual text, the explanations and examples- they are helpful to understanding the purpose of DBT. But the suggestions this book gives are wildly unhealthy!! Among the suggestions for "healthy distractions" are shopping, eating, sleeping, or calling others. These are all addictive, codependent, or avoidant activities and really deviate from the core of the lesson, which is healthy control. I am very disapponted with the exercises in this book, but I won't write it off completely. There is some good content, but I would not suggest this book to someone who has never been coached on DBT in a clinical setting.
In real DBT, there is a multi-pronged approach, focusing on a balance between acceptance and change. True DBT places a heavy emphasis on a technique called 'radical acceptance', as well as mindfulness, and pairs that with distress tolerance skills, self-soothing skills, emotional regulation skills, and learning new ways of dealing with people.
In a 160 page book, these skills, which are quite hard to learn, take up on 30 pages. The rest of the book is, frankly, focused on explaining traditional CBT skills, such as writing down 'hot thoughts' that one then changes, or explaining the different kinds of anxiety disorders (a big portion of this book). There is also an emphasis on traditional anxiety therapy techniques like stress management.
The book is broken down this way:
1. What anxiety disorders are like, in general.
2. What CBT therapy is, in general.
3 and 4. Actual DBT skills, only 30 pages, only very brief and unspecific, paired with more general skills like 'mindfulness'.
5 and 6. Stress and worry, how to cope with these using traditional anxiety therapy (NOT DBT)
7. Flashbacks and PTSD type stuff
8. Panic Attacks
10. Social Anxiety
I think this book is probably most useful as a library book for someone who has recently been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and wants a short, layman's explanation of what Social Anxiety is or whatever. Unfortunately, rather than billing itself as such, it's trying to market the DBT aspect, and, look, the explanations of what DBT is and how to use DBT are simply not well written or useful enough to put into practice.
If you were like me, looking for a book to learn actual DBT techniques, the DBT-specific workbook by McKay, Wood, Brantley is much MUCH better. That book takes multiple chapters to explain radical acceptance and how to implement it, rather than, y'know, a single page, because radical acceptance is brutally difficult and yet incredibly important. Distress tolerance, dealing with people, creating coping plans, self-soothing, balancing acceptance and change, the McKay/Wood/Bantley book has all of the real DBT skills to help a person cope. This book, I'm sorry to say, just does not. It takes more than 30 pages to explain how to use Lindehan's work. It just does.
The book encourages those struggling to really take a look at why they feel, or act, the way they do, and take proactive steps to correct that behaviors, develop coping skills, and learn to embrace and look forward to life again. It's a useful tool for self-improvement. Terrific resource to have on hand. Thanks to the authors for creating this series of books and reaching so very many people.
Top international reviews
This book begins by tackling how to handle overwhelming emotions before it dives into the deeper issues, which I found was a really great approach. After all, if my house is on fire, I'm going to need to put the fire out before I look for the match that started the fire! Unfortunately, every professional counsellor takes the opposite approach and to be honest, it really wasn't working for me and made me worse. Now that I've been working through this book, it's given me some of the tools I need to cope with my bad days so that I can have less of them and work through what's causing the problem on the good days.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is having difficulty coping with overwhelming feelings, especially if you have some delays in seeing a healthcare professional, or finding the right one for you.
Working from easier to harder techniques, it very much considers what is manageable for sufferers at each stage; no high pressure or overwhelming tasks!
Easy to understand for any reader, I don't know why patients aren't recommended this by professionals while awaiting therapy. I bought another book alongside this and this is definitely the one which is easier to understand and follow.