Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT Skill, Turning the Mind; and DBT Skills for Parents and Teachers: Validation and Self Regulation

In DBT, there are two groups of skills that fall under the module, distress tolerance, crisis survival and reality acceptance. Today’s skill, turning the mind is a reality acceptance skill. 

Let’s take a step back for a moment, and remind readers about distress tolerance. These skills help youth to bear pain, and to non-judgmentally accept both oneself and one’s current situation without trying to change it or avoid it, and without making it worse, ie: yelling, cussing, slamming doors (you know what I mean!). A  few examples of situations that can not be changed are making a failing grade, family problems like parents divorce, not making a team at school, and a romantic break up. 

Further, reality acceptance skills, in particular, assist kids and teens with the acceptance part . . . accepting life as it is in the moment. Now, back to today’s reality acceptance skill, Turning the Mind.

Review of the skill: Turning the mind has strong underpinnings in mindfulness; this skill uses mindfulness throughout its implementation. For those of you who already have, DBT Therapeutic Activity Ideas for Working with Teens, Turning the Mind worksheet and handouts can be found on pages 110 – 117. 

Turning the Mind skill follows these steps: 

2. Next, teens make a commitment to accept reality as it is, and to turn their mind and body to accepting the situation or facts or feelings…even if they do not like or agree with them.Teens have to make the choice to turn their mind (think of the other skill, willing). For the teens in my skills group, we first practice physically turning our mind and body to acceptance; secondly, we practice mindfully going inside and turning our mind and body to accept.

1. First, teens must recognize they are not accepting the situation they are currently facing. Teens can notice these internal cues by paying attention to their  emotions, cognitions and urges. For example, when they are feeling angry, annoyed, nervous; thinking “this is unfair” “I’m not going to do it” or “I don’t want this to happen”; and finally, urges: hit, refuse to do what’s being asked, and avoidance. 

3. Do it again, over and over. It can be challenging to accept, and teens may have to do this many times in a minute, hour, or day. It only makes sense, that the more painful the situation, the longer it takes for youth to fully accept it. 

4. Lastly, teens can make a plan for catching times when they fall out of acceptance. Just like in step one, teens can notice when they have run into a situation they are not accepting through their cues: emotions, thoughts, urges. 

Monthly Challenges for Parents and Teachers: 

1 Practice validation. As we know, emotionally sensitive teens need validation (remember, validation is when your teen feels heard and understood by you).
Look for ways to validate your emotionally sensitive teen; you can just quietly listen if you are not sure what to say. Be in a place of curiosity about your teen’s thoughts, feelings and experience even if it does not completely make sense to you. 

2. In addition, begin to notice your own cues of emotion dysregulation. One researcher, Dr Gottman, looked at marital conflict and indicators for when arguing couples should take a break from discord. He noted that when a person’s heart rate is higher than 100 beats per minute, they will not be able to be mindfully present to the other person. Hence, a rational and positive end to a disagreement is unlikely to occur.

Over the next week, pay attention: at 100 beats per minute, what do you notice about yourself? Are your hands in a fist? Are you clenching your jaw? Eye rolling? Thinking, “I’ve had enough of this…”. These are your personal cues to take a 20 – 30 minute break, practice TIP or mindfulness, and then calmly return to the discussion. 

Carol Lozier is a therapist, author, and blogger specializing in trauma; and adoptive and foster kids, teens, and adults. Ms. Lozier is in private practice in Louisville, KY.

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