What To Expect In A DBT Skills Group

What To Expect In A DBT Skills Group

Expectations, whether based on fact and experience, or our own assumptions and interpretations, have the tendency to either prepare or disappoint. Because of this, it’s important to understand what differentiates DBT skills groups from other therapeutic groups, so that you can make an informed decision about whether participating in a DBT skills group will be beneficial for you. Joining a DBT skills group is a 24-week commitment and although this experience can prove highly effective, it may not be a good fit for everyone.


How Are DBT Groups Different?


A common misunderstanding of DBT skills groups is that they are comparable to other therapeutic groups, such as process groups or support groups. Although the DBT skills group atmosphere often fosters feelings of peer support and understanding, the primary purpose of these groups is to learn effective skills.


The DBT skills group format allows for the sharing of personal information at the discretion of each group member, however, the majority of information shared within the DBT skills group is done in relation to the use of the DBT skills. This practice ensures that any difficulties implementing the skills may be addressed, by both the facilitators and group members. Although DBT skills groups encourage group member interaction and input there is a classroom-like component, as each week a new skill is taught. One of the benefits of participating in a DBT skills group is that each group member brings their own experiences and unique approaches to particular skills and situations. This opportunity the learn together, and from each other’s experiences helps us learn innovative ways to approach the skills.


A DBT skills group is an essential component of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. While combining individual therapy and the DBT skills group is not mandatory, it is important to recognize that the main goal of a DBT skills group is to teach and support group members in effectively using new skills. The emphasis on teaching new skills – and the very nature of a group setting – allows for less 1-on-1 attention for each group member and is a reason that supplementing DBT skills group with individual therapy is recommended.


What Does a DBT Skills Group Session Look Like?


Each DBT group session will begin with mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can take many forms, ranging from mindful colouring to guided visualization, and is incorporated for both personal practice and group benefit. This practice can help group members become present and ready to engage and learn in a group.


Following mindfulness, each group member is given an opportunity to check-in and let the rest of the group know how their week has been, with an emphasis on skills tried and used. This can be an opportunity for group members to troubleshoot skills that were not as effective as they’d hoped or suggest alternate skills that may have been effective for the given situation or particular struggle. Group interaction and insight can be a particularly helpful addition to check-in. This can also be a time to review any homework or questions from the previous week’s group.


After a short break, the second half of the DBT group session is dedicated to learning a new skill. All DBT skills are separated into four main modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. These skills are taught with an emphasis on being effective in everyday life. Oftentimes real-life examples can be used to illustrate how each specific skill can be effective; group members are welcome to present a relevant personal situation where a skill may be useful to see its specific application if they so choose. As the founder of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Marsha Linehan would say, the goal of DBT is to create “a life worth living.” Through the learning of skills and the support of the group, clients can be supported in gaining control of their lives and moving toward a life worth living.

Click here to learn more about our youth and adult DBT groups!

What Is Restorative Yoga?

What Is Restorative Yoga?

Sometimes we think of the body, mind, and soul as separate entities, but in reality, they are interconnected as a whole. The interactions between the parts and how they influence us, guide us, and support us are much like a dance. Similarly, the way we do asana, the poses we use in our yoga practice, is the way we do life. We often dance between loving our practice, resenting it, using it as an escape, and so on. What is important to remember is that our practice is neutral, it simply mirrors who we are, our emotional state, and how we are in the world.

Being present in this day and age is often a challenge with all of the distractions within, and around us. One single breath of gratitude can change that. Restorative Yoga uses physical props and at the same time, your body is a prop for your soul. Some of the important questions to ask in Restorative Yoga are, “Who are you bringing to the mat today, what do you need, and what will you give? Where are you allowing your attention to go right now?”  Being present is essential to the practice of Restorative Yoga, otherwise, it’s just an exercise.


What Restorative Yoga is Not


Restorative Yoga is not simply stretching, it’s about opening oneself and one’s body. In fact, the emphasis is not on the pose, but on the opening. Who you are and what you bring to your practice is as important as the particular poses and postures used. We all bring a container, or vessel, ready to be filled with our practice. It’s different than Yin Yoga, which focuses on active asana, versus the emphasis in Restorative Yoga on holding and being still. Our focus is not on striving; we know you can do more, but Restorative Yoga asks the question, “Can you do less?” It is not about ambition, which is the opposite of relaxation; we do not need to do more.


What Restorative Yoga Is


In Restorative Yoga, we focus on the truth that we do not need to go anywhere else, do anything else, or be any different than who and where we are now, and what we are presently doing. We focus on the fact that what we seek is already here – the pose is right here, right now, as we’re present with it.

To be relaxed we need to be still, quiet, dark and warm.  Restorative Yoga takes us toward sleep. To be still where we are, our body sleeps and our mind watches. As we practice, we learn to relax enough, without falling asleep. This is valuable because our bodies are used to moving around constantly and therefore, stillness is a radical thing. It’s something we’re not used to pursuing in our hectic lives. This is why Restorative Yoga emphasizes spending time finding a comfortable shape where we can be still. We find quietness, without music; pursuing darkness, which is difficult because even if you close your eyes, light filters in. Darkness is good for the organs below the diaphragm, irregular periods, our livers and our digestion. Finally, we pursue warmth, even using swaddling blankets around our hands, feet, belly, back, or anywhere! There is a reason this is comforting to babies as they enter a new, seemingly chaotic world – we can receive the same comfort as we pursue stillness in our active environment.


Why Is Restorative Yoga Important To Do?


The reality is that most of our nervous systems are hyper-stimulated as we suffer from a lack of sleep, improper diet, and stress. The intention is what makes Restorative Yoga different. Our bodies sleep while our mind watches as we sense our way through our practice, without thought. The use of props is to support our bodies in positions of comfort and ease; that is, to facilitate the relaxation response, which is where healing begins.

Restorative poses work with the rhythm of the body. They are powerful for removing blockages, to allow our body to heal. Restorative poses are often helpful in recovery from cancer, and poses like legs up the wall can even aid lymphatic drainage. Back bending is helpful in opening the front body for digestion, posture, and breathing. Semi-inversions like legs up the wall are effective for relief of jet lag, restless leg syndrome, and jobs where you stand a lot. Gentle forward folds are great to initiate the relaxation response. The focus of Restorative Yoga can be summed up as, “Heart up, brain down.”  As we let go of our thoughts, we will begin to notice changes in our breathing and a more relaxed state, as we drift toward the present moment.


How Can We Start A Restorative Yoga Practice?


Doing Restorative Yoga 20 minutes per day releases tension and lets us gently sink into the present, without judgment, ambition or needing to do anything. In our practice, we are truly with ourselves, for ourselves – we are just simply being.

Restorative Yoga is what our hearts and our souls cry out for in our busy lives. When there are fewer choices, we have more time. We pursue meaning based upon our presence, versus our busyness. Through our practice, we not only relax our bodies, we learn to relax and create space in our lives.  As we develop our deep relaxation practices, we gently manipulate our nervous system into the relaxation response, putting it into a place of comfort whereby healing and restoration can take place. Through our practice, we can live with peace and rest, even in the midst of the busyness and turmoil of our daily lives.


May we live like a lotus at home in the muddy water.


I hope this article helps explain what Restorative Yoga is, and how it might be helpful to you. I’m excited to announce that we will be starting a regular Restorative Yoga class at Alongside You in January 2019. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please click below to check it out on our website. We’re taking pre-registrations now and we’d love to have you!

Click here for more information about our Restorative Yoga class!

Emotionally Focused Therapy with Diverse Couples

Emotionally Focused Therapy with Diverse Couples

With an increasingly multicultural society, it is becoming more important than ever for therapists to consider the impacts of these different cultural aspects on their clients4. Today’s couples are becoming more diverse in terms of culture, socioeconomic status, ability, ethnicity, and religion, just to name a few. This means that we as therapists to adjust our practice appropriately. In this blog, we’ll look at how therapists can support diverse couples in relationships from different religious or faith backgrounds in a therapeutic setting.


The Challenge


Interaction among different religious, cultural, and ethnic groups has been shown to be beneficial in platonic relationships when the interactions are “amicable, positive, and voluntary”, but romantic relationships may present a greater challenge. Separately, marriage has been shown to positively correlate with physical and psychological health and religion has proven to be a protective factor for many; together, marriage and religion can spur additional external stressors. Differences in religion can often mean differences in culture, tradition, and ethnicity, which has the potential to create additional stress on the relationship. These external stressors often come in the form of extended family, or society as a whole, when traditions appear altered or compromised. Research has shown that these factors can have a detrimental impact on the psychological well-being of couples with different religious backgrounds.

There are particular factors within religiously diverse couples that can tip the scales in either a more positive, or more challenging direction. First, couples vary on how strongly they use religion to define a relationship. Religion may enforce particular “rules” to determine how interpersonal or family challenges are addressed, such as sexuality, parenting, or power. Second, religiosity exists on a spectrum, so factors such as religious practice, involvement, activity, and belief intensity all contribute to potential stress in a relationship; both individuals in a relationship can even be of the same religion and differ in the strength of religious faith or religious motivation. Third, underlying values may overlap in different religions allowing couples to find common ground; for example, many religions view extramarital sex as unacceptable. Couples from different religious or faith backgrounds can be successful if differences are addressed, understood, and respected; if left unaddressed these differences can become conflictual and threaten the relationship.


How Can We Help?


From a therapeutic perspective Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a form of couples counselling has shown to be effective for addressing distress in relationships. EFT believes that relationship distress stems from perpetuating negative interaction cycles, which often result from unmet needs. For example, this could be shown in how a couple manages conflict; is the conflict discussed and resolved or does an argument ensue that leaves both parties angry and resentful? The goal of EFT is to develop secure attachment through identification, experience, and expression of emotional and attachment needs. The basis of EFT in the attachment is a leading reason why it is thought to be so successful as a couple’s therapy. From a diversity perspective, the ability to adopt EFT to accommodate different religious or faith backgrounds is why this form of therapy can be successful for a multitude of different couples.

There are three main stages to the EFT model of couples therapy: de-escalation, restructuring attachment interactions, and consolidation and integration. De-escalation involves learning about and understanding negative interaction cycles that are perpetuating distress in the relationship. This can relate back to the previous example; when conflict occurs in the relationship is there one party who actively wants to resolve the situation and one party who chooses to remove him or herself? Restructuring attachment interactions are all about shaping new core emotional experiences and interactions to lead to a more secure attachment. Change in EFT is not achieved through insight, catharsis, or improved skills, but rather from formulation and expression of new emotional experiences as it pertains to attachment needs and emotions. What does each partner need to feel heard and understood? Consolidation and integration are the final of the three stages in EFT and can also be referred to as withdrawer re-engagement. During this stage, the partner whom previously avoided conflict and engagement with their partner openly expresses attachment needs and is more open and responsive to their partner.

The rooting of EFT in emotion and attachment makes it very flexible and therefore adaptable to couples of many diverse backgrounds. At Alongside You we love working with couples from diverse backgrounds and we have specific training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. If this article resonates with you and we can be of help, please let us know, contact us, and give us a shout


Alongside You Is Expanding – Check it out!

Alongside You Is Expanding – Check it out!

There’s a lot of excitement around here at Alongside You! Anyone who knows us well knows that we’re always looking to fill gaps, improve services, and find more ways to help our community. This is why we’re expanding! Here’s a taste of what’s been going on, and what to expect in the coming months!


Brand New Yoga Studio

Surprise! We’re almost finished building our new yoga studio (the trim is being put in as I write this). Why are we building a dedicated yoga studio you might ask? Aren’t there enough around already? Well, in short – no, there aren’t enough, and they aren’t like ours is going to be. We’re providing a different service here at Alongside You, and we need a space that reflects that. We focus primarily on yoga therapy and trauma sensitive yoga here in our clinic, and our studio will be set up as an ideal environment for these highly personal, individual sessions with our lovely Brenna Jacobson. As great as our art studio and private offices are, they aren’t ideal for this kind of work so we’re creating what is needed to serve our clients better.

What about yoga classes you might ask? Well, we’re going to have those too. But they’re going to be different. We’ll be focusing on small class sizes, because we hear time and time again that the size of classes is overwhelming for people. We’re going to focus on specific topics and build customized yoga programs to suit. I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag completely, but we’re going to start with kids, prenatal yoga, and Hatha Yoga 101 for Beginners. Coming down the pipe are things like yoga for anxiety, chronic pain, and much more. But one thing at a time! Stay tuned to our website and social media for all the details!

We also wanted to bring the outdoors into the studio. So, as always, we’re working with the fabulous Tyler Garnham, and we’ve found an image local to South Delta that will be installed in our studio, filling up the entire north wall. This will give us, and our clients a feeling of space, and connection to our local surroundings even while inside. I can’t wait, it’s going to be amazing!

Occupational Therapy

We love our OT, Kristin Beare, but she’s busy tending to her own kid right now. Our yoga studio is going to do a little bit of double duty and be a space for our OT to work with clients. The larger space will give much more freedom for mobility-related concerns, sensory work, and so much more! We’re also building customized storage into the new wing so that we have more tools at our fingertips. She’ll be back later on this year, and I can’t wait to see what she does with the new space with her clients. Stay tuned!

Clinical Office

Ok, this isn’t super exciting to you maybe, but it’s exciting to me. We’re building a new office that is set up more ideally for neurofeedback for clients, and for our Neurofeedback guru, Jonathan Wieser. Our other offices have worked fine, but this is going to be better. It will also be used by other counsellors, which gives us more available office space and flexible times for clinicians so that we can be more available to you as we expand! Growth is good, and we’re growing our hours to serve you better!

Group Therapy

So, the studio is also going to be used for group therapy. We already run a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) group, but we’re expanding our group therapy offerings. Between our art studio where we do our DBT, and the new group room in the yoga studio I’m pretty sure we’re going to have the coolest group therapy spaces around. Why is this important? Because I hear all the time how much our clients appreciate being in creative, beautiful spaces while they’re in our care. It makes a difference! I can’t yet reveal the new groups we’re going to be running, but we’ll be using the new space for our Adult DBT Group, Youth & Family DBT Group, and soon enough, some others!


This is awesome, so when do we get to see the new spaces and use them?

You’re not going to have to wait long! We’re opening March 1st, and our individual yoga clients will get to use the space right away, as will our neurofeedback and counselling clients. Stay tuned, because we’re opening things up throughout March for Kids Yoga over Spring Break, and following that up with Prenatal Yoga and Hatha Yoga 101 for Beginnings toward the end of March and into April.

I hope you’re excited because we are! We can’t wait to show you the new spaces, and more importantly, be even better equipped to serve you well. South Delta is our home, and we’re growing thanks to your help! Whether you’re in Ladner, Tsawwassen, North Delta, or beyond, please come check out our new digs and see what we have to offer. We’d love to meet you!

To be the first to find out about all of the new things going on, make sure you follow us online at Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.



What is the future of Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

What is the future of Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

Revolutionary Treatment for Trauma

Ongoing studies are being carried out in the field of women’s health, which is exciting.  I am hopeful that the psychological community will continue to become more open and curious about this “new 2000 year old revolution,” as a positive addition to the traditional treatment for the broad spectrum of traumatic stress injuries.  Many practitioners in the field of psychology are embracing Trauma Sensitive Yoga because they are witnessing its positive effect in the treatment of trauma.  They see their clients re-connect their physical body to their mind and witness their patients’ previously blocked channels opening up due to Trauma Sensitive Yoga. Clients who were previously unable to articulate their traumatic experience can now do so, allowing the whole treatment process to move forward.

I am inspired and optimistic about the federal government’s involvement through its funding on research regarding the efficacy of Trauma Sensitive Yoga. One of the big obstacles in this process is the stigma around the word ‘Yoga’. In truth, Trauma Sensitive Yoga is the opposite of traditional yoga.  The facilitator’s role is to guide the client. The client is in control, free to make his/her own choices every step of the way. It is not about when, but how. Over time through a process that combines yoga interaction, communication, and collaboration, the yoga facilitator and therapist lead the client to a place of inner strength. This all results from the individual’s work that she/he does on him/herself. This is not from what we do for them, but what they do for themselves. Our clients who have survived trauma learn that their body is not the enemy nor is their body at fault. First, they rediscover the body they may have become numb to. Then they befriend their body by learning how to self-regulate. At the end of it, clients rediscover their true self and their inner wisdom.


Clients First

The priorities for Trauma Sensitive Yoga facilitators include putting the client first, providing a safe environment, facilitating appropriate types of exercises (not poses), NOT assisting, teaching qualities, supportive language, and the client’s ability and freedom to make choices.


Yoga facilitator training focuses on working on oneself first – practicing the techniques on yourself, before trying to guide someone else. Empathy is when we come from a place of our own inner power and we can use that to focus on serving others. Yoga facilitators are known for doing this. By bringing into focus our own biases and stigmas, we arrive at a place where we have true empathy for the other person. Being around others that have been through a similar situation can be a life changing experience for trauma survivors. Human beings are complex creatures who find incredible comfort in not being alone. By connecting all the pieces, working as a team, and embracing the inner strength within each of us, we can pull through it. We invite our clients to play a key role in their own healing as this is the whole concept behind holistic healing.

What is Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

What is Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

Everywhere I look, Trauma Sensitive Yoga is the hot topic currently in the spotlight. Why the sudden interest in this topic you may ask? The federal government is contributing 1.2 million dollars to a research pilot-project in British Columbia for women in transition, and people are wondering if the costs are going towards a viable solution. The feds are headed in the right direction. After decades of relatively stagnant structure and programs, the federal government is finally realizing there has been a vital missing link in past approaches to ‘holistic’ healing in western society. We have been ignoring an essential part of the healing process, the physical body.

Treating trauma involves treating the whole person. Specifically in the treatment of trauma, Registered Yoga Therapist (RYT) David Emerson and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, renowned researcher in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), have collaborated since 2003. They have been developing the Trauma Sensitive Yoga program in the Trauma Centre at Justice Resource Centre, Brooklyn, MA.

A Solution for Many Traumatic Conditions

Trauma Sensitive Yoga is designed to help heal women who’ve been through domestic violence as explained in the recent article from CBC, Wednesday June 22, 2016. However, Trauma Sensitive Yoga has been known to help a broader audience. Those who benefit from Trauma Sensitive Yoga include: survivors of rape, childhood abuse, neglect, mental abuse, war vets, and at risk youth just to name a few.  This process is even able to help people in other areas we might not usually think of as trauma, such as women with fertility problems.No trauma is more important than another. All traumas are alike where we feel disconnected from our true self. People with trauma feel a sense of powerlessness and lack of control over their outcomes

Although we may not like to admit it, we are all victims of circumstances in life. Our misfortune could be caused by certain events such as trauma,  the ‘Frustration Cycle’, or our inner wisdom being clouded by buried false beliefs about ourselves that are negative and self-destructive. According to the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, No. 19 (2009):

Traditional trauma therapy is talk-based and focuses on the mind, the story, tending to neglect the physical visceral and body-based dimension of trauma. An essential aspect of recovering from trauma is learning ways to calm down, or self-regulate.  For thousands of years, Yoga has been offered as a practise that helps one calm the mind and body.  More recently, research has shown that yoga practices, including meditation, relaxation and physical postures, can reduce autonomic sympathetic activation, muscle tension, and blood pressure, improve neuroendocrine and hormonal activity, decrease physical symptoms and emotional distress, and increase quality of life.  For these reasons, yoga is a promising treatment or adjunctive therapy for addressing the cognitive, emotional and physiological symptoms associated with PTSD specifically.

In a pilot study done at the Justice Resource Centre on the effectiveness of yoga on PTSD symptoms, there were findings that state some of the findings state that,“After eight weeks, the yoga participants showed improvements in all dimensions of PTSD, an increase in positive affect and decrease in negative affect, and an increase in their physical vitality and body attunement.”

According to Dr. Jeff Morley, a registered psychologist for the Canadian centre for Police and Emergency ResiliencePTSD is no longer being classified as a mental ‘disorder’ but will be recognized as an involuntary injury. This gives rise to a more expansive umbrella for the injury. New more inclusive terms such as Post Traumatic Stress Resilience (PTSR) and Post Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) are more accurate at describing what people are going through.