Therapy + Comics = Good Session

Good Afternoon, World!!! I realize I already told you little about my session today with my therapist in my last post (https://gertiesjourney.com/2018/04/17/thankfully-not-hospitalized/) but I would like to share a little more about it as I think it helped my therapist build a rapport with me. Besides talking about my parents and their addictions we discussed comics. We discussed comics because I wore a Wonder Woman t-shirt and hat today. I told my therapist that I collect Wonder Woman comics and then we ended up talking about comic book universes. My therapist is more into Marvel and I am more into DC even though we both like a little of both universes. My therapist asked if reading comics was in my crisis plan and something I do end stead of self harming and I said yes to both. We discussed how comics have played a major role in my recovery and he assigned me to read one comic book a day as part of some homework. Another part of my homework he wants me to create a coping skills tool box out of a shoe box even though I more or less have my backpack full of coping skills I use. He even gave me a shoe box to start it. He is having me do this because he knows I enjoy doing art and to help me think about my coping skills. He also wants me to write a page on how making the coping skills box made me feel and what my experience was making it.

I am grateful that my new therapist is coming up with creative ways to help me help myself. I may not like having therapy homework but I am grateful to have it as it gives me an opportunity to grow and continue with my recovery.

Thank you for reading. Peace Out, World!!!

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Thankfully, Not Hospitalized

Hello, World!!! There was an hour or two where I thought I could be hospitalized due to hitting a brick wall with my hand and thankfully it is NOT going to happen. Everyone was in agreement with me that the hospital would not be beneficial to me this time around. So, with everyone in agreement, I am not going to be admitted to the hospital.

My therapist and I discussed my self harm actions this morning and did what is called a chain analysis. If you’re familiar with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) then you know what I am talking about. It is hard for me to describe what one is but it is extremely helpful. My therapist and I also discussed my family. Specifically, my parents and their addictions to drug and alcohol. My dad is in active recovery while my mom is not in recovery whatsoever. We talked about how I learned from their mistakes and chose not to drink or use drugs. I told my therapist that I don’t need more issues on top of the ones I already have.

I’ll write more later. I am just really tired and in pain from hitting a brick wall. Thank you so very much for reading. It is very much appreciated. Peace Out, World!!!

Seattle Police Helping With Opioid Epidemic

Good Evening, World!!! I am a happy camper right now as the local news station I watch made sure to emphasis a particular that many advocates like myself are thrilled about. Seattle Police was able to get a donation of one hundred or so naloxone (narcan) for more officers to carry to help in an opioid overdose.

I know many people take issues with such things however, I as advocate of the Harm Reduction model as well as being a live in general I am all for this. You kind of need to be alive to be able to choose to be in recovery.

Below is a picture of what a naloxone kit looks like.

 

Image result for naloxone kit

Thank you for reading my blog. Peace Out, World!!!

Addicted to Reading, Stuffed Animals & Not Being Able To Sleep

IMG_0245Good Morning, World!! I am finding myself wide awake just barely after three o’clock in the morning in my neck of the woods. I’m finding myself getting addicted to reading. It’s getting in the way of me sleeping at night.

Actually, I find myself reading when my insomnia is acting up and unable to sleep. The problem comes in is when I get tired and continue reading in bed. I know I should put down my book when I start getting tired however it’s difficult to do so when the book is a good read especially when I’m surrounded by my many stuffed animals.

I love being surrounded by so many stuffed animals because it helps me self-soothe when times become difficult. Difficult enough to need to hold on to one or more of them to help me. Help enough to get back to reading or whatever I might be doing at the moment. That’s why I carry a stuffed animal in my backpack when I go out and about.

Good thing its Sunday and I have nowhere to be today as I’ve been up since eight o’clock yesterday (Saturday) morning. Maybe I should get going and try to go to bed to see if I am able to sleep. If I am unable to do so, I’ll be reading once again. Its time to cuddle up with my stuffed animals. Have a good Sunday. Peace Out, World!!!

Weekly Check-In

Good Afternoon, World!!! It’s hard to believe that as I sit here typing this post that this is going to be my last weekly check-in of the year. 2017 has not been the best of years for me and many other people I know.

Enough about how horrible 2017 has been because this is a weekly check-in and not a yearly check-in. As many of you are well Christmas was this past Monday. Christmas wasn’t the best I’ve had. I celebrated Christmas with my dads side of the family on Christmas Eve like I do every year. It went well even though it’s most likely going to be my grandma’s last Christmas due to Parkinson’s related issues.

Now on to the not so good part of Christmas. Junior and I went to my mom’s place to celebrate with her, my brother and uncle on Christmas. As always Junior and I stayed in a hotel due to the drama my mom caused due to her having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). On top of my mom having BPD she has other mental health challenges as well as a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). My mom is actively using heroin. Unfortunately, she overdosed on Christmas Day and I had to administer Naloxone (aka Narcan).  Administering Naloxone (Narcan) isn’t something anyone wants to do much less having to make sure they have it handy at family events. Other than my mom overdosing on Heroin, time with my brother and uncle went great.

After spending time with my moms side of the family, Junior and I state a few more days to hang out with some friends. We had some great fun with our friends as well as great food. Food that we were able to come home with and eat at later time. Leftovers are always yummy.

This year I received some great gifts. I received a handful of books as well as gift cards to bookstores. I also received a lot of art supplies which I am thrilled about. I am excited to be able to read and do some art.

As I end this post, I want to thank you for reading. I hope to post at least one last post of 2017 at some point tomorrow, the last day of the year. I hope everyone has a great day. Peace Out, World!!!

Being Future Oriented

Dealing with a mental health condition is a full time job in itself. Some days its like having two full time jobs. Today happens to be one of those days it feels like I have two full time jobs. Actually, it feels more like having three full time jobs at this particular moment in time.

When I’m having moments or days like I am having currently, it means that I am needing to focus on my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills. As, I focus on my DBT skills I realize that being in my current head space that I am needing to really focus on what I need to deal to get back to doing well.

When I am doing well, I am working. Preferably, in the mental health field as it’s the field I am most passionate about. As, I think about future employment, I realize I want to further my education as it will be helpful in the mental health field. I being a peer specialist really don’t need a college education but it is quite helpful if you have one. So, it is my hope to be able to get an Associates of Applied Science degree in Social and Human Service’s with a certificate in Chemical Dependency. Getting this will make me more employable. Employable as a Peer Specialist or as a Chemical Dependency Counselor or even both.

As I think about getting an education to further my career it has me realize not working at this present moment has helped me reevaluate my life and focus on my recovery. Its also made me realize how passionate I am in regards to people being in recovery. Of course people make the decision to be in recovery and want to help others through their recovery however it looks to them.

For me blogging is part of my own recovery and as I end this post I want to thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Peace Out!!!

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Happy Friday!!! It being Friday, that means it is time for me to do my educational feature. I have decided to do the topic of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). The reason being is because I did the topic of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I got the following information off of the  Linehan Institute; Behavior Tech at:   http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm

What is DBT?

Overview

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment that was originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and it is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population. In addition, research has shown that it is effective in treating a wide range of other disorders such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

What are the components of DBT?

In its standard form, there are four components of DBT: skills training group, individual treatment, DBT phone coaching, and consultation team.

  1. DBT skills training group is focused on enhancing clients’ capabilities by teaching them behavioral skills. The group is run like a class where the group leader teaches the skills and assigns homework for clients to practice using the skills in their everyday lives. Groups meet on a weekly basis for approximately 2.5 hours and it takes 24 weeks to get through the full skills curriculum, which is often repeated to create a 1-year program. Briefer schedules that teach only a subset of the skills have also been developed for particular populations and settings.
  2. DBT individual therapy is focused on enhancing client motivation and helping clients to apply the skills to specific challenges and events in their lives. In the standard DBT model, individual therapy takes place once a week for as long as the client is in therapy and runs concurrently with skills groups.
  3. DBT phone coaching is focused on providing clients with in-the-moment coaching on how to use skills to effectively cope with difficult situations that arise in their everyday lives. Clients can call their individual therapist between sessions to receive coaching at the times when they need help the most.
  4. DBT therapist consultation team is intended to be therapy for the therapists and to support DBT providers in their work with people who often have severe, complex, difficult-to-treat disorders. The consultation team is designed to help therapists stay motivated and competent so they can provide the best treatment possible. Teams typically meet weekly and are composed of individual therapists and group leaders who share responsibility for each client’s care.

What skills are taught in DBT?

DBT includes four sets of behavioral skills.

  • Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment
  • Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
  • Emotion Regulation: how to change emotions that you want to change

There is increasing evidence that DBT skills training alone is a promising intervention for a wide variety of both clinical and nonclinical populations and across settings.

What does “dialectical” mean?

The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example, DBT therapists accept clients as they are while also acknowledging that they need to change in order to reach their goals. In addition, all of the skills and strategies taught in DBT are balanced in terms of acceptance and change. For example, the four skills modules include two sets of acceptance-oriented skills (mindfulness and distress tolerance) and two sets of change-oriented skills (emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness).

How does DBT prioritize treatment targets?

Clients who receive DBT typically have multiple problems that require treatment. DBT uses a hierarchy of treatment targets to help the therapist determine the order in which problems should be addressed. The treatment targets in order of priority are:

  1. Life-threatening behaviors: First and foremost, behaviors that could lead to the client’s death are targeted, including all forms of suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury, suicidal ideation, suicide communications, and other behaviors engaged in for the purpose of causing bodily harm.
  2. Therapy-interfering behaviors: This includes any behavior that interferes with the client receiving effective treatment. These behaviors can be on the part of the client and/or the therapist, such as coming late to sessions, cancelling appointments, and being non-collaborative in working towards treatment goals.
  3. Quality of life behaviors: This category includes any other type of behavior that interferes with clients having a reasonable quality of life, such as mental disorders, relationship problems, and financial or housing crises.
  4. Skills acquisition: This refers to the need for clients to learn new skillful behaviors to replace ineffective behaviors and help them achieve their goals.

Within a session, presenting problems are addressed in the above order. For example, if the client is expressing a wish to commit suicide and reports recurrent binge eating, the therapist will target the suicidal behaviors first. The underlying assumption is that DBT will be ineffective if the client is dead or refuses to attend treatment sessions.

What are the stages of treatment in DBT?

DBT is divided into four stages of treatment. Stages are defined by the severity of the client’s behaviors, and therapists work with their clients to reach the goals of each stage in their progress toward having a life that they experience as worth living.

  1. In Stage 1, the client is miserable and their behavior is out of control: they may be trying to kill themselves, self-harming, using drugs and alcohol, and/or engaging in other types of self-destructive behaviors. When clients first start DBT treatment, they often describe their experience of their mental illness as “being in hell.” The goal of Stage 1 is for the client to move from being out of control to achieving behavioral control.
  2. In Stage 2, they’re living a life of quiet desperation: their behavior is under control but they continue to suffer, often due to past trauma and invalidation. Their emotional experience is inhibited. The goal of Stage 2 is to help the client move from a state of quiet desperation to one of full emotional experiencing. This is the stage in which post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would be treated.
  3. In Stage 3, the challenge is to learn to live: to define life goals, build self-respect, and find peace and happiness. The goal is that the client leads a life of ordinary happiness and unhappiness.
  4. For some people, a fourth stage is needed: finding a deeper meaning through a spiritual existence. Linehan has posited a Stage 4 specifically for those clients for whom a life of ordinary happiness and unhappiness fails to meet a further goal of spiritual fulfillment or a sense of connectedness of a greater whole. In this stage, the goal of treatment is for the client to move from a sense of incompleteness towards a life that involves an ongoing capacity for experiences of joy and freedom.

How effective is DBT?

Research has shown DBT to be effective in reducing suicidal behavior, non-suicidal self-injury, psychiatric hospitalization, treatment dropout, substance use, anger, and depression and improving social and global functioning. For a review of the research on DBT, click here. In this video, DBT Developer and Behavioral Tech founder Dr. Marsha Linehan describes the amazing changes she’s seen in people who have received DBT and gotten out of hell.

Dive Deeper

Philosophy and Principles of DBT

DBT is based on three philosophical positions. Behavioral science underpins the DBT bio-social model of the development of BPD, as well as the DBT behavioral change strategies and protocols. Zen and contemplative practices underpin DBT mindfulness skills and acceptance practices for both therapists and clients. DBT was the first psychotherapy to incorporate mindfulness as a core component, and the Mindfulness skills in DBT are a behavioral translation of Zen practice. The dialectical synthesis of a “technology” of acceptance with a “technology” of change was what distinguished DBT from the behavioral interventions of the 1970s and 1980s. Dialectics furthermore keeps the entire treatment focused on a synthesis of opposites, primarily on acceptance and change, but also on the whole as well as the parts, and maintains an emphasis on flexibility, movement, speed, and flow in the treatment.

True to dialectics, DBT strategies are designed in pairs representing acceptance (validation, reciprocal communication, environmental intervention on behalf of the client) and change (problem solving, irreverence, consultation-to-the-patients about how they can change their own environment). Strategies are further divided into procedures; a set of principles guides the selection of strategies and procedures depending on the needs of the individual client. Clients are also taught a series of behavioral skills designed to promote both acceptance and change. A focus on replacing dysfunctional behaviors with skillful behaviors is woven throughout DBT.

DBT is a principle-based treatment that includes protocols. As a principle-based treatment, DBT is quite flexible due to its modular construction. Not only are strategies and procedures individualized, but various aspects of the treatment, such as disorder-specific protocols, can be included or withdrawn from the treatment as needed. To guide therapists in individualizing priorities for targeting disorders and behavioral problems, DBT incorporates a concept of levels of disorder (based on severity, risk, disability, pervasiveness, and complexity) that in turn guides stages of treatment and provides a hierarchy of what to treat when for a particular patient. In contrast, skills training is protocol based. Once a skills curriculum is determined, what is taught in a session is guided by the curriculum, not by the needs of a single client during that session.

The Development of DBT

In the late 1970s, Marsha M. Linehan attempted to apply standard Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to the problems of adult women with histories of chronic suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and non-suicidal injury. Trained as a behaviorist, she was interested in treating these and other discrete behaviors. Through consultation with colleagues, however, she concluded that she was treating women who met criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In the late 1970s, CBT had gained prominence as an effective psychotherapy for a range of serious problems. Dr. Linehan was keenly interested in investigating whether or not it would prove helpful for individuals whose suicidality was in response to extremely painful problems. As she and her research team applied standard CBT, they encountered numerous problems with its use. Three were particularly troublesome:

  1. Clients receiving CBT found the unrelenting focus on change inherent to CBT to be invalidating. Clients responded by withdrawing from treatment, by becoming angry, or by vacillating between the two. This resulted in a high drop-out rate. If clients do not attend treatment, they cannot benefit from treatment.
  2. Clients unintentionally positively reinforced their therapists for ineffective treatment while punishing their therapists for effective therapy. For example, the research team noticed through its review of taped sessions that therapists would “back off” pushing for change of behavior when the client’s response was one of anger, emotional withdrawal, shame, or threats of self-harm. Similarly, clients would reward the therapist with interpersonal warmth or engagement if the therapist allowed them to change the topic of the session from one they did not want to discuss to one they did want to discuss.
  3. The sheer volume and severity of problems presented by clients made it impossible to use the standard CBT format. Individual therapists simply did not have time to both address the problems presented by clients (suicide attempts, self-harm, urges to quit treatment, noncompliance with homework assignments, untreated depression, anxiety disorders, and more) and have session time devoted to helping the client learn and apply more adaptive skills.

In response to these key problems with standard CBT, Linehan and her research team made significant modifications to standard CBT.

They added acceptance-based or validation strategies to the change-based strategies of CBT. Adding these communicated to the clients that they were both acceptable as they were and that their behaviors, including those that were self-harming, made real sense in some way. Further, therapists learned to highlight for clients when their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were “perfectly normal,” helping clients discover that they had sound judgment and that they were capable of learning how and when to trust themselves. The new emphasis on acceptance did not occur to the exclusion of the emphasis on change: clients must change if they want to build a life worth living.

In the course of weaving in acceptance with change, Linehan noticed that another set of strategies – dialectics – came into play. Dialectical strategies give the therapist a means to balance acceptance and change in each session. They also serve to prevent both therapist and client from becoming stuck in the rigid thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can occur when emotions run high, as they often do in the treatment of clients diagnosed with BPD. Dialectical strategies and a dialectical world view, with its emphasis on holism and synthesis, enable the therapist to blend acceptance and change in a manner that results in movement, speed, and flow in individual sessions and across the entire treatment. This counters the tendency, found in treatment with clients diagnosed with BPD, to become entrenched in arguments and polarizing or extreme positions.

Significant changes were also made to the structure of treatment in order to solve the problems encountered in the application of standard CBT.

In her original treatment manual, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (1993), Linehan hypothesizes that any comprehensive psychotherapy must meet five critical functions. The therapy must:

  1. Enhance and maintain the client’s motivation to change
  2. Enhance the client’s capabilities
  3. Ensure that the client’s new capabilities are generalized to all relevant environments
  4. Enhance the therapist’s motivation to treat clients while also enhancing the therapist’s capabilities
  5. Structure the environment so that treatment can take place

As already described, the structure of DBT includes four components: skills group, individual treatment, DBT phone coaching, and consultation team. These components meet the five critical functions of a comprehensive psychotherapy in the following ways:

  1. It is typically the individual therapist who maintains the client’s motivation for treatment, since the individual therapist is the most prominent individual working with the client.
  2. Skills are acquired and strengthened, and generalized through the combination of skills groups and homework assignments.
  3. Clients capabilities are generalized through phone coaching (clients are instructed to call therapists for coaching prior to engaging in self harm), in vivo coaching, and homework assignments.
  4. Therapists’ capabilities are enhanced and burnout is prevented through weekly consultation team meetings. The consultation team helps the therapist stay balanced in his or her approach to the client, while supporting and cheerleading the therapist in applying effective interventions.
  5. The environment can be structured in a variety of ways. For example, the home environment could be structured by the client and therapist meeting with family members to ensure that the client is not being reinforced for maladaptive behaviors or punished for effective behaviors in the home

True to dialectics, DBT strategies are designed in pairs representing acceptance (validation, reciprocal communication, environmental intervention on behalf of the client) and change (problem solving, irreverence, consultation-to-the-patients about how they can change their own environment). Strategies are further divided into procedures; a set of principles guides the selection of strategies and procedures depending on the needs of the individual client. Clients are also taught a series of behavioral skills designed to promote both acceptance and change. A focus on replacing dysfunctional behaviors with skillful behaviors is woven throughout DBT.

DBT is a principle-based treatment that includes protocols. As a principle-based treatment, DBT is quite flexible due to its modular construction. Not only are strategies and procedures individualized, but various aspects of the treatment, such as disorder-specific protocols, can be included or withdrawn from the treatment as needed. To guide therapists in individualizing priorities for targeting disorders and behavioral problems, DBT incorporates a concept of levels of disorder (based on severity, risk, disability, pervasiveness, and complexity) that in turn guides stages of treatment and provides a hierarchy of what to treat when for a particular patient. In contrast, skills training is protocol based. Once a skills curriculum is determined, what is taught in a session is guided by the curriculum, not by the needs of a single client during that session.

  1. Clients receiving CBT found the unrelenting focus on change inherent to CBT to be invalidating. Clients responded by withdrawing from treatment, by becoming angry, or by vacillating between the two. This resulted in a high drop-out rate. If clients do not attend treatment, they cannot benefit from treatment.
  2. Clients unintentionally positively reinforced their therapists for ineffective treatment while punishing their therapists for effective therapy. For example, the research team noticed through its review of taped sessions that therapists would “back off” pushing for change of behavior when the client’s response was one of anger, emotional withdrawal, shame, or threats of self-harm. Similarly, clients would reward the therapist with interpersonal warmth or engagement if the therapist allowed them to change the topic of the session from one they did not want to discuss to one they did want to discuss.
  3. The sheer volume and severity of problems presented by clients made it impossible to use the standard CBT format. Individual therapists simply did not have time to both address the problems presented by clients (suicide attempts, self-harm, urges to quit treatment, noncompliance with homework assignments, untreated depression, anxiety disorders, and more) and have session time devoted to helping the client learn and apply more adaptive skills.
  4. In response to these key problems with standard CBT, Linehan and her research team made significant modifications to standard CBT.

They added acceptance-based or validation strategies to the change-based strategies of CBT. Adding these communicated to the clients that they were both acceptable as they were and that their behaviors, including those that were self-harming, made real sense in some way. Further, therapists learned to highlight for clients when their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were “perfectly normal,” helping clients discover that they had sound judgment and that they were capable of learning how and when to trust themselves. The new emphasis on acceptance did not occur to the exclusion of the emphasis on change: clients must change if they want to build a life worth living.

In the course of weaving in acceptance with change, Linehan noticed that another set of strategies – dialectics – came into play. Dialectical strategies give the therapist a means to balance acceptance and change in each session. They also serve to prevent both therapist and client from becoming stuck in the rigid thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can occur when emotions run high, as they often do in the treatment of clients diagnosed with BPD. Dialectical strategies and a dialectical world view, with its emphasis on holism and synthesis, enable the therapist to blend acceptance and change in a manner that results in movement, speed, and flow in individual sessions and across the entire treatment. This counters the tendency, found in treatment with clients diagnosed with BPD, to become entrenched in arguments and polarizing or extreme positions.

Significant changes were also made to the structure of treatment in order to solve the problems encountered in the application of standard CBT.

In her original treatment manual, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (1993), Linehan hypothesizes that any comprehensive psychotherapy must meet five critical functions. The therapy must:

  1. Enhance and maintain the client’s motivation to change
  2. Enhance the client’s capabilities
  3. Ensure that the client’s new capabilities are generalized to all relevant environments
  4. Enhance the therapist’s motivation to treat clients while also enhancing the therapist’s capabilities
  5. Structure the environment so that treatment can take place

As already described, the structure of DBT includes four components: skills group, individual treatment, DBT phone coaching, and consultation team. These components meet the five critical functions of a comprehensive psychotherapy in the following ways:

  1. It is typically the individual therapist who maintains the client’s motivation for treatment, since the individual therapist is the most prominent individual working with the client.
  2. Skills are acquired and strengthened, and generalized through the combination of skills groups and homework assignments.
  3. Clients capabilities are generalized through phone coaching (clients are instructed to call therapists for coaching prior to engaging in self harm), in vivo coaching, and homework assignments.
  4. Therapists’ capabilities are enhanced and burnout is prevented through weekly consultation team meetings. The consultation team helps the therapist stay balanced in his or her approach to the client, while supporting and cheerleading the therapist in applying effective interventions.
  5. The environment can be structured in a variety of ways. For example, the home environment could be structured by the client and therapist meeting with family members to ensure that the client is not being reinforced for maladaptive behaviors or punished for effective behaviors in the home.

DBT has personally saved my life and am grateful to have had the opportunity to take an intensive outpatient DBT program. DBT is awesome and it is one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Have an awesome Friday and Peace Out!!