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  • Alicia Paz

DBT Starter Kit & Resource Guide

Are you starting your DBT journey and wondering where to start with so much information out there? Overwhelmed with book options, self-help websites and blogs? This is the DBT 101 Starter Kit. As a DBT Therapist I get a lot of questions from people who are overwhelmed or don't know where to begin. Every person will find different parts of DBT that work for them (or don't work,) so be gentle with yourself in taking any advice- including my own. Also if you are in traditional in-person group DBT I would reach out to their staff regarding books and other resources specific to their program.

1. How much time do you have to dedicate to this right now?

Begin thinking about how much time can you reasonably spend daily or weekly learning DBT. The purpose or learning DBT is to utilize the skills not just memorize names of skills. Do you want to sit down an hour a week and learn? Ten minutes of quiet time a night? Both are great ways to start, knowing which will help make the best use of your time.

2 Get a Book!

This is really obvious and there are many texts out there. Here are my favorites I have and used 3 for my courses. This is hands down my favorite, it's easy-to-use and understand and has worksheets as well as 125 skills. My local library has a ton- try there, if not it's $13 on Amazon as of this post date as an updated version is coming October 2019. There is also some good free pdfs of workbooks online you can find- it's not my top pick, but useful and free DBT is better than no DBT!

There are some great more specific books out there by the same authors and company specific to diagnosis that also have great value and if you strongly identify with a diagnosis this might be a great start. There is a Bipolar, Anxiety, PTSD and Anger version as well. They are all different colors, but same publishers and look nearly identical.

Mindfulness is a module of DBT (I think to think of DBT being a large book with 4 chapters, Mindfulness is one of them) so as much as diving into Interpersonal Skills sounds great Mindfulness maybe a better starting point or an overlap in learning along with another module. These are my favorite Mindfulness apps and books.

Phone Apps are handy especially for on the go: Calm App and Guided Mind App are my favorite

Udemy Courses; my own DBT Mindfulness of course is here, Mindfulness Made Easy is great here as is this guide on how to do Mindfulness for Beginners here

YouTube: Personally I like starting by listening to calming music and focusing on my breath for a few minutes so gentle music or sounds of rain like this, there are plenty guided mediations on YouTube, I prefer the shorter ones like this, but long ones might work for you especially if you have been doing Mindfulness for a while, like this one hour one.

Books I enjoy reading on Mindfulness and there are now a ton of them including some for young children, here is a useful list

Podcasts are great and popular and there are a lot; some discuss mindfulness and DBT and some go skill-by-skill explaining them all.

  1. Bay Area DBT: Great podcast that goes in-depth in skills

  2. DBT Therapy Focus: Podcast that focuses on skills, but also some personal episodes

  3. Charlie Swenson: 50+ podcasts with each one a separate skill, Charlie is an MD and each podcast is about an hour long

3. Create a Plan

So now you have a new book ready to read, some time dedicated to do it set aside and next you need a plan. This is the set up for traditional in person DBT (90 minutes) and it works well, but I also think there can be lots of variety when doing this on your own.

  • 10-15 min mindfulness

  • Review diary cards with group (video explanation here of diary cards)

  • Read 1-2 new skills

  • Review skills, how and when to use them

  • Close

When learning DBT on your own this might be a great guide, but also have worked with students online who used these format with success. Feel free to create your own.

Schedule for 45-60 minutes weekly:

  • 10-15 minute mindfulness

  • Week review (over diary cards which are hard to "share" alone, but it's possible, and I created a Facebook group for students to share them)

  • Read 1-2 new skills

  • Review skills, how and when to use them

20-minutes twice weekly:

  • 5 min mindfulness

  • Read 1 new skill a week; Monday learn skill, Thursday check in regarding use of same skill and how and when to use it

4. Support Matters

DBT in person is group format and as you DIY this you might feel all alone in tis journey, have questions or feel lost as DBT is really different from other things you have tried. Social media is super useful and can also be anonymous plus free is great! I make no promises about all the posts from online profiles, but here is who I follow and find supportive.

Twitter: #BPDchat is wonderful and well used, especially when a group logs in Sunday evening with a topic. It's a great way to find people for support.

Online resources: DBT Self help, hands down is the best resources for DBT information, including worksheets and delves deep into every skill.

Books on BPD Recovery via DBT: great list here. I find having a book or two on hand is useful not just for initial motivation, but when you are struggling it helps to remind you what is possible.

5. Get a Journal

DBT is about using skills not memorizing and it's also purposefully repetitive plus so many worksheets! It is useful to get a journal, or have some organized space to file some of this away and yet keep them close by when you need them. Some students find it helpful to journal their experiences, struggles and successes.

6. Be Gentle on Yourself

This is so new to you and doing it alone even with support isn't always easy, so take it slow, don't overwhelm yourself with doing too much too fast and give yourself some space to do non-DBT things.

7. Don't Make DBT Your Only Resource

DBT is great, I have been teaching it for six-years and I continue to encourage students to see their therapist, take their meds as prescribed and add DBT to their mental health plan. DBT coping skills can change lives, and so does medication, talk therapy, yoga, meeting up with supportive friends and taking your dog on a walk.

8. Still Need Help (and that is ok!)

Tried these tips and still staring at your book or writing in your journal that you are feeling lost?

In person clinic DBT: If you can make it to an in person DBT class that may help you learn DBT, meet people in a similar struggle and get structure e in your learning. Nifty map of providers here.

Online DBT: I do teach DBT on Udemy, my current courses are DBT Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance with more coming Summer 2019, full list here

DBT Skills Coaching: Can also be useful in gaining structure and also sorting out what skills work best for you and how to use them. More details on what is it here and details are on my website. Feel free to reach out or schedule via Facebook for a free consultation.

9. Give Yourself Credit

This isn't an easy task and DBT is a "meaty" thing to learn on your own. Recovery isn't a linear path and that is okay.

Let me know how your DBT journey goes and any resources of advice you think is missing from this post? Plan on continuing to uodate.


©2018 by Online Coping Skills

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