What is a DBT Residential Treatment Center?

Sunrise is a fully integrated DBT residential treatment center.  This means that Dialectical Behavior Therapy plays an integral part of our foundation for treatment.  In a nutshell, DBT aims at teaching people effective ways to manage their emotions and behaviors as well as how to healthily make and navigate through relationships.
The “dialectical” portion of DBT asserts that opposites can coexist at the same time and that when taken together they can create new ideas and different ways of viewing or approaching a situation. So why do we use DBT? Not only is DBT a proven and effective method of treatment for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, but the skills taught therein can greatly benefit teenagers, adults, and anyone who might want to improve their ability to better manage their emotions, behaviors, and relationships. The four areas of DBT are:

What does DBT look like in a Residential Treatment setting?

At Sunrise, we make an effort to incorporate DBT into nearly every facet of our program because of the benefit it is to our clients to adopt these skills. Whether it is in a few minutes of mindfulness practice at the start of every class and group, webinars for parents, group therapies, yoga, or even flashcards, we make DBT happen! Our clients aren’t the only people benefitting from a DBT Residential Treatment setting. The staff, teachers, and therapists at Sunrise have a unique opportunity to learn and practice DBT skills on a day to day basis with our clients. They act as skills coaches for the girls as they go through the process of learning and incorporating principles of DBT in their daily interactions.

DBT Residential Treatment: My Experience

I recall a time recently when I was able to coach a client to use her mindfulness DBT skill amidst a temporary interpersonal crisis. She came to me one afternoon and I could see that she was quite obviously upset. As she approached me she exasperatedly said, “I need someone to talk to”. After I asked her what was going on she proceeded to spew out her frustrations about an “infuriating” interaction she just had with a peer. She went on and on for a few minutes seeming to talk without any pauses or breathing and only appearing to be getting more distressed by talking about what happened with this peer. I waited for her long overdue pause and then interjected by suggesting we continue our conversation after we sat down by the edge of the pool and dipped our feet in.  She looked at me with a bit of confusion and hesitation but consented. We walked across the backyard lawn where we were and came to the pool to stick our feet in. With our feet in the water, we didn’t continue the conversation immediately. Rather, I suggested that we both take a moment to observe how cool and refreshing the water was on our legs in contrast to the hot summer afternoon. We smelled and tasted the air of the chlorine from the pool. We saw the light of the midday sun glistening like a mirror off the water. We listened to the soft splashing of the water as our feet moved back and forth in a gentle kicking motion. After a few moments, I asked her to tell me again about how she was feeling about what happened. There was an obvious difference this time around in how she talked about the interaction with her peer. She seemed less flustered and in more control of emotion. She eventually came to a solution of what she was going to do differently herself and how she would approach her peer. This she did herself with very little help from my end.
This is just one example of many that I and others have had by practicing DBT. After nearly 3 years of helping parents and their daughters at Sunrise Residential Treatment Center, DBT has very much become part of my everyday life, regardless of what setting I find myself in.  My personal favorite skill is mindfulness.  It’s all about increasing our awareness, focus, and attention on the present. Some important aspects of mindfulness include:

  • Being an observer of your internal and external environments
  • Describing what you’re experiencing in the moment
  • Fully participating in that experiences

In addition, “how” we practice mindfulness is by being non-judgmental, staying focused, and doing what works for us. Mindfulness teaches me how I can be in control of my mind rather than allowing my mind to be in control of me. I enjoy practicing mindfulness in my daily yoga, in meditations and prayers, and every other chance I get! I find that in a very real way, it helps me gain emotional and mental clarity, helps reduce my anxiety and emotional distress, and improves my overall wellness.
I know that skills such as mindfulness that we learn from DBT can improve the lives of everyone that puts their mind to it. That is why Sunrise is a DBT Residential Treatment Center.