“You are richer than you think.” This is the current slogan being used by Scotiabank. When I hear this slogan, I think of the clients who are participating in the various DBT groups here at Alongside You. DBT is the short form of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, created by Dr. Marsha Linehan, who is a psychologist working at the University of Washington in Seattle. This treatment is the gold standard for clients struggling with unstable identity, risky behaviours, chaotic relationships and an inability to regulate emotions and urges. The DBT skills taught in our groups focus on Distress Tolerance and Crisis Management, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness. There has been much research supporting this form of therapy that it is now also designated as the gold standard for Borderline Personality Disorder. The skills are also very helpful for clients trying to manage depression, anxiety and substance misuse.
In addition to skill building, learning and participating in a group format has many other benefits. I have facilitated groups of various kinds for 40 years and have been witness to so much growth in so many clients that I can say with confidence that a group experience is a very rich one. Dr. Irwin Yalom describes in his book, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy that the following factors occur when participating in group therapy:
- Instillation of Hope
- Imparting of Information
- Corrective recapitulation of the primary family group.
- Development of socializing techniques
- Imitative behaviour
- Interpersonal learning
- Group cohesiveness
- Existential factors
Dr. Roy Mackenzie in his book, Time-Managed Group Psychotherapy, identifies learning factors such as
- Vicarious learning
- Self-revelation and Insight
As the late famous American poet Maya Angelou says, “we are more alike than we are different.” Why then do we sometimes we feel that we are left behind while others live their life without strife? This is certainly how it may appear on the various social media sites. More and more I see young clients who spend hours daily checking up on friends on the various social media platforms on the internet. It seems to me that it would be much more healthy to call a friend and plan to do an activity together. If we parallel play as young adults we are not growing psychologically. Attending a group is a good start to get back in the game of communicating both verbally and nonverbally with other people. People need people as we are social beings by nature. A group is a microcosm of society in general. When clients feel supported in a genuine way they are likely to experience some or all of the healing factors mentioned above.
Another factor involved in a group setting is the undercurrent explained by the psychoanalyst, Wilfred Bion, in his book Experiences in Groups. Bion says that there are three basic assumptions working alongside any working group. These are mostly unconscious but are helpful for facilitators to consider if a group they are running is starting to struggle. The first basic assumption is the dependency and this happens when leaders are dialectically idealized and devalued. The second basic assumption is pairing in which two group members bond in an attempt to overthrow the leader. The third basic assumption is fight or flight, which happens when the group has a common enemy. It can be a taxing job to be teaching skills as well as observing the group process and the underlying basic assumptions all at the same time. Extra training on group skills is highly recommended when moving from individual therapist role to a group therapist role. I believe that this is one of the reasons our groups are so effective here at Alongside You. We work diligently to create the best atmosphere for people to learn and to grow.
Groups are a dynamic force and when change happens to the individual group members this impacts and creates a vibration which results in changes to the whole group. Systems theory suggests that groups over time tend to develop a self-organizing nature which works to maintain stability and minimize threats. Through this, clients can experience a safe space to explore their challenges and their successes, and learn from, and encourage each other.
My goal when I co-facilitate our Dialectical Behavioural Therapy group is to have clients leave after 24 weeks being even richer than they think they are, as they carry their new tools to help them achieve a “Life Worth Living.” Feel free to contact us to learn more about Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.