How Acceptance Has Helped Me Be a More Effective Parent

Last night, I took my son to his first judo class.  He had a blast!  He was attentive, (generally) followed directions, and tried every activity that was presented.  He effectively used skills to avoid a confrontation with another child that was there who was getting into his personal space.  He was totally OWLRIFIC – our word for when he uses Wise Mind to guide his actions.  I felt proud of his efforts to fully participate in the class, and provided lots of positive reinforcement for his attempts to use skills to navigate situations that can be challenging for him.  I truly enjoyed watching him and seeing the positive changes he is making in his life. 

What was difficult for me was watching some of the other parents whose children were in the class.  Even though it is designed for children on the ASD spectrum with emotional and behavioral difficulties, some of the parents were clearly experiencing some uncomfortable emotions related to how their children were acting.  As I looked around the room, I saw parents whose eyes were swollen with tears, heads were hung down facing the floor, and had their hands covering their faces.  As I sat there watching their reactions, I felt a sense of sadness for the children that were looking over to their parent for smiles and encouragement, and instead saw what I was seeing.  And, I remembered that I was once that parent, too.

Having a child with different needs can be challenging.  I remember feeling stressed and ashamed of how we BOTH acted at times.  I remember crying, pleading and yelling to try to get my child to act “normal”.  I remember thinking I was a failure as a mother.  I went to therapy and talked about my struggles and feelings.  Although in some ways, I felt better just getting things off my chest, I wasn’t really changing anything – I still felt stuck.  Similarly, my child wasn’t flourishing through any of this.  Throughout this time, I repeatedly asked “why is this happening to me/us” . . . “what have I/we done to deserve this drama”?  It was a time of intense emotional suffering, and we needed relief. 

Before I was as knowledgeable about DBT as I am now, my friend and colleague introduced me to the skills of Turning the Mind and Radical Acceptance – two of the Distress Tolerance skills that help you to effectively live a life that is not really the one you want to be living.  Huh?  Why would a person want to live a life that they don’t want to live?  The answer is simple – because we must accept that reality is what it is – even if we do not like it or it makes us unhappy, disappointed, ashamed, etc.  Rejecting the facts, attempting to control that which we have no control over, and trying to avoid pain doesn’t help us to move toward our goals or help us create our life worth living.  Instead, they move us away from our goals and exacerbate suffering.  I was reminded of this last night at the judo class.  As I watched some of the other parents, I remembered how miserable I felt before I started using these skills.  I thought about how I felt stuck, ineffective, ashamed, embarrassed and annoyed by both my child’s actions and needs, and my own feelings and behaviors. 

Turning the Mind is the first step on the path to accepting reality.  It is observing that you are fighting the facts, making a commitment to accept reality as it is, and planning for moving toward acceptance when you find yourself questioning reality or wanting to control that which you have no control over.  Turning the Mind can be practiced over and over again, each time you notice that your thoughts or actions are drifting toward nonacceptance of reality.  So, in my case, I struggled with accepting the fact that my child is on the ASD spectrum.  My attempts to change or ignore this fact resulted in increased frustration and a host of other negative and ineffective emotions, actions and outcomes.  By committing to moving toward acceptance of my child’s diagnosis, I began the process of fully acknowledging that although it is not the reality I want, it is the reality with which I must live.  By doing this, not only did I became better able to address the specific issues and concerns that are inherent in my child’s life, but I began to learn to regulate my own emotions . . . and, I was able to start down the path of being a more effective parent and advocate for my son.

Initially, practicing Turning the Mind was a difficult task for me . . . I have written before that I can be Willful.  The more I practiced though, the further I traveled down the road to Radical Acceptance of the situation.  Radical Acceptance – the idea that a person fully accepts that the facts are the facts, that there are realistic limitations on and expectations for every person and situation, and that life is worth living even with pain and disappointment – has provided a new level of freedom for me and my child.  It is the state of acknowledging that he has a disorder that I am unable to do anything about.  It has released me from the anger and disappointment I once felt, and allowed me to focus my attention on other tasks.  It has moved me from struggling against something that I can’t influence, to facilitating changes in areas that I can.

So, last night at judo, I found myself wondering how many of the parents were still stuck where I was before – resisting the reality of their child’s diagnosis, experiencing a host of negative emotions that accompanied a refusal to acknowledge life on life’s terms, and challenging every ineffective behavior rather than shaping positive behavior?  I experienced a sense of sadness for those who were so focused on the struggles that they seemed unable to fully enjoy their children’s triumphs.  I felt relieved that I am no longer in that place. 

Think that DBT skills can help you be a more effective parent and interested in learning more?  We’d love to hear from you!

DBT Skills and Parenting

Let’s face it, life can be stressful.  Most of us have multiple priorities in our days, and parenting is one of many tasks that demand our attention and time.  Sometimes, it is tough to maintain our focus on effective parenting because of all the things we have on our plates!  Although I would like to say that I am always effective as a parent . . . unfortunately, I’m not.  I can say this, though, I am a better parent when I use DBT skills to help me navigate the minefield of parenting – and, when I teach them to my children to increase their self-efficacy and self-control.

My younger child struggles with maintaining control of his emotions which can lead to outbursts and tantrums.  This has led to difficulties at school, home and in other environments.  One thing that has helped considerably is daily mindfulness practice.  We spend a little bit of time everyday practicing how to access Wise Mind – or, as we refer to it, how to be OWLRIFIC.  Helping him synthesize his emotions and the facts about a situation isn’t always easy, but it has significantly decreased some of the negative behaviors that he struggles to control.  Sometimes we use movement to purge excess energy, sometimes we use music to help focus . . . it depends on what is on his plate.  The point is, once he is feeling more grounded and centered, I can either walk him through other skills or he can access other choices (skills that he has learned) for how to behave more effectively in a situation rather than acting on impulses.  When he is away from home, he has some easy-to-use Distress Tolerance skills that he can access when he is feeling overwhelmed or needs a break from a situation.  He uses the sensory room at school to self-soothe and refocus.  When we are out running errands and such – which can be really tough for him – he usually brings items with him to facilitate the use of Wise Mind ACCEPTS.  This is a Distress Tolerance skill focusing on using Activities, Contributing, Comparisons, Emotions, Pushing Away, Thoughts and Sensations to get through a taxing situation without making it more difficult or worse.  Because the end goal is increased Emotion Regulation, we are working on integrating some of those skills into his repertoire. 

My teenager is in a different place – mentally and emotionally.  Learning to make effective decisions and to regulate his shifting emotions are key issues for him as he walks the line between childhood and adulthood.  For him, the primary focus is often on Emotion Regulation skills.  Helping him become more emotionally insightful – learning to identify what he is actually feeling and then determining if it an appropriate time to act on the emotion or not – is key.  It isn’t always a walk in the park to help him determine that a situation might call for Opposite Action or Problem-Solving when he feels compelled to act on his emotion urge, but it is getting easier for him to walk through the steps to figure this out.  I also encourage Mindfulness practice for him – sometimes he joins his brother and I, and other times not.  Teaching him to Observe and Describe situations before he Participates (three essential components of Core Mindfulness) has been particularly useful for him in terms of making decisions that are more in keeping with his values and goals. 

So, now you may be wondering which skills I use to try to be more effective as a parent.  The answer is:  ALL OF THE DBT SKILLS!!  While there is a kernel of truth in that response, it isn’t a very helpful one.  Truth be told, when I use DBT skills, I am not only a more effective parent, I am a more effective human being.  When it comes to using them for parenting, the answer is that it really depends on the day and the situation with which I am faced.  When I have multiple priorities demanding my attention and prompting emotional responses, Emotion Regulation skills are essential as they help keep me grounded and able to access Wise Mind – the most effective place from which to interact with others and make decisions.  Some days – particularly if there are numerous prompting events that might act as a catalyst to ineffective behavior –  I rely on Distress Tolerance skills (distracting and self-soothing, in particular) to get me through the moment without doing or saying something to make it worse until I can get to a place to use other skills.  Interpersonal Effectiveness skills are becoming more and more vital as they assist me with more organized communication with my children – and, help me stay away from the dreaded “because I said so” response which can seem very invalidating and controlling to my children, and seems naïve and half-hearted to me. 

Interested in learning how to use DBT skills to increase positive interactions with your children, and how to integrate them into their daily lives?  Feel free to contact us at the office!

Is Willfulness Getting in Your Way?

Willfulness.  Oftentimes, we think about it and the first image that comes to mind is a petulant child having a tantrum about refusing to accept “no” as the answer to an additional treat or privilege.  Sometimes, we call it being stubborn or hard-headed.  Certainly, these are all forms of willfulness.  What we can forget, though, is that willfulness can be part of our everyday lives in ways that we don’t commonly realize. 

Willfulness can take a multitude of forms.  Things like refusing to acknowledge reality for what it is, wanting to be “in control” of every situation, seeking a premature solution to every problem, and being overly attached to our own wants are all forms of willfulness that can get in the way of being effective.  As humans, we often demonstrate willfulness in ways that we don’t even think about consciously – putting off making an appointment with the dentist or eye doctor despite pain or discomfort, or avoiding potentially difficult conversations out of fear or shame.  These are fairly common examples of willful behavior that interfere with our daily lives – sometimes in small ways, and other times in more serious ways. 

DBT sees willfulness as a response to one’s own needs or a resistance to responding to the needs of the situation.  Let’s use my refusal to make an appointment for an eye exam to illustrate this idea.  Despite an awareness that reading is becoming more difficult because the print is becoming fuzzy and that street signs are also becoming blurrier, I put off calling for an appointment for an eye exam.  This behavior continues and my vision continues to deteriorate.  I start to experience headaches, avoid driving at night or in unfamiliar areas of town, and I am reluctant to read articles or books that previously gave me pleasure.  Willfulness is clearly interfering with being effective in this situation!  Maybe I’m refusing to acknowledge that my vision is worsening because of age.  Perhaps, I think that if I need bifocals it means that I am no longer youthful and vibrant.  Maybe I’m reluctant to take time from more pleasurable activities to sit in an office for an exam, or don’t want to spend the money on new glasses.  There are tons of possible reasons behind the willfulness of this situation – although none of them are going to effectively address the fact that my eyesight is deteriorating.  And, that is the problem – willfulness interferes with doing what is needed in the situation at the time.  As a matter of fact, willfulness can make the situation even worse.  By refusing to accept the facts of a situation, an appropriate and effective response cannot be generated.  This refusal can lead to increased avoidance, intensified emotions, and other ineffective responses which often further complicate things – in this example, increased vision problems. 

Of course, DBT offers skills to address willful behavior.  First, we encourage a person to observe their willfulness.  Yes, observe it, experience it and label it as willfulness.  After all, once your willfulness it is acknowledged and called what it is, you can accept that you are acting in a manner that is not effective.  This moves you from Willfulness to Willingness which opens you up to the possibility of engaging in more effective behaviors.  Willingness is about listening to and acting from Wise Mind which is typically the most effective place for decision-making and problem-solving.  In my mundane example about the eye exam, Wise Minded problem-solving led to the decision to call and make an appointment.  After all, having clear vision is ultimately the most effective choice as it promotes safety, decreases the occurrence of vision-related headaches, and makes it easier and more pleasurable to read for both work and relaxation which promotes productivity and leads to Accumulating Positives.

What about in more emotionally charged or behaviorally challenging situations?  Yes, moving from Willfulness to Willingness is helpful here, too.  Arguments with loved ones, stressful work situations, difficult interactions with children . . . whatever the case may be, it is generally useful to step back and determine if you acting in a Willful manner.  Ask yourself these things:

·       Am I refusing to tolerate what is happening?

·       Am I stuck on being “right”? 

·       Am I wanting everything to be “my way”?

·       Am I looking for a “quick fix” to this situation?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, Willfulness might be getting in your way.

As always, if you want to learn more about Willfulness and Willingness, feel free to contact the office . . .  

Homework Review:  New Year’s Resolution Check-In

Last month, one of our blog topics was about making and keeping New Year’s Resolutions.  And, I thought now would a good time to check in and see how everyone is doing.  No, I’m not trying to nag anyone – nagging can feel pretty invalidating and is often ineffective anyway.  I am, however, hoping to use this as an opportunity to talk about commitment, accountability and . . . homework. 

Let’s start with a brief recap of the four guidelines from the previous blog:

1)     Focus on one resolution at a time and be mindful of your steps towards achieving it.

2)     Choose a goal that is in keeping with your values and priorities – something that is really important to you, not to someone else.

3)     Create an achievable plan with behaviorally-based action steps that challenge you but aren’t impossible.

4)     Problem-solve the struggles and don’t throw in the towel.

So, the “homework” was to decide upon a New Year’s Resolution, and use the guidelines above to help keep you on track.  How did it go?  Did you narrow it down to one resolution?  Is it something that is important for you and in keeping with your values/priorities?  Did you sit down and create a behaviorally-based plan to achieve your resolution?  Are you using problem-solving to overcome any barriers that might be getting in the way of achieving your resolution?

Maybe you are wondering why I am asking these questions?  Pretty simple, actually.  This is fairly similar to how we support people to stay on track when they are in treatment.  Huh?  Yep!

DBT Treatment has a lot to do with commitment and accountability – by both the clinician and the client.  The agreement to enter therapy is signed by both parties.  It is a relationship of equals wherein the client agrees to learn new behaviors in all relevant contexts to move them toward their life worth living, and the therapist agrees to help them change in ways that move them towards their goals.  Inherent in this relationship, then, is mutual commitment and mutual accountability toward recovery.  Also, there is individual commitment.  The client commits to fully participating in the program because they want to improve their lives.  The therapist commits to using their knowledge of the skills and to being part of the consult team to enhance their effectiveness.  So, what does this have to do with your New Year’s Resolution?  If you use the guidelines effectively, you have committed yourself to a program of change and you have chosen to hold yourself accountable for your actions. 

So, where does the “homework review” part of this come in?  In DBT, we give clients homework related to the skills they are learning or to specific target behaviors that are inhibiting their movement toward their recovery goals.  In skills group, we devote time each week to homework review to see how the skills were used in other settings.  Homework review is another form of accountability in that there is an expectation that clients will practice skills outside of the group.  If a client doesn’t complete their homework, a review of the barriers to doing so is completed and problem-solving to overcome the barriers occurs.  Think of your resolution as “homework”.  The questions I asked about how you were using the guidelines was an attempt to check in on your commitment and accountability to your resolution (homework) and your commitment to yourself.  Does that make more sense?

Hopefully, everyone is sticking to their resolutions and using the guidelines to help them stay committed and accountable.  Let us know how things are working out! 

Mindfulness and Validation as Components of Empathy

Not long ago, Collaborative Oasis DBT shared an article on our Facebook page about integrating empathy education into the curriculum of a California preschool.  I’m pretty certain that most of us would agree that the benefits – increased emotional resiliency, decreased bullying and aggression, and promotion of positive social interactions – are things we all hope to encourage in our children.  By teaching empathy, we encourage children to step into the experience of another person to share their feelings.

But, what about increasing our own empathetic responses to people – especially those who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder?

Most of us have faced challenging situations that may have left us feeling alone and like no one else understands.  Remember what that was like?  Empathetic responses help other people feel like they aren’t alone in their struggles, reinforces that you are there to support (not judge) them, and demonstrates your respect for the person and their ability to handle their struggles.  These elements are key components of empathic interactions with others, and essential in promoting your loved one’s efforts in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder.    

So, how do you do this?

One thing to remember is that it is important to be Mindful during our interactions.  When providing an empathic response to someone it is a great time to use the “HOW” skills of effective Mindfulness.  These skills encourage you to approach situations non-judgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively.  Further, they increase your awareness of the situation and encourage us to pay attention to what is happening in the moment.  Non-judgmentally keeps you focused on the facts of the situation and encourages a non-evaluative stance.  One-mindfully is all about staying in the moment, letting go of distractions (like your phone or the tv), and concentrating on what is right in front of you.  There is no better way to demonstrate your support of another person or your loved one than to give them – and what they are saying – your full and undivided attention, and it communicates to the person that you are interested in and want to hear about what they are going through. 

Coincidentally, maintaining a Mindful presence in the moment facilitates your ability to provide validation to a person.  Validation is more than being present in the moment, though.  When Validation is used effectively, it communicates levels of understanding and caring, as well as respect.  “Paying Attention” – looking and acting interested in what is being said, and avoiding distractions – is the most basic level of Validation and is the foundation of providing an empathic response.  After all, you need to take in the information about the situation if you going to be able to formulate an effective response.  Another validation strategy that demonstrates empathy is “Reflect Back”.  When appropriate, you reiterate what you hear to make sure you have clear understanding of what the other person is saying.  Even if you missed something or you are slightly off the mark, this shows the other person that you are interested and want to understand so that you can help.  You can also pay attention to what isn’t being said and “Read Minds”.  You can do this by looking at facial expressions and other body language, and this can give you clues about what the person might be thinking or feeling.  Of course, check out your assumptions with the other person to ensure that you are correct.  If you are – FANTASTIC – keep going!  If not, let these ideas go and don’t push your own agenda.  Other Validation strategies that show empathy include looking for opportunities to indicate that you “Understand” how the person is feeling or thinking based on their past experiences and/or present situation, and “Acknowledging the Valid” responses or actions of the person because they are logical responses to the facts of the current situation.  Lastly, “Show Equality” in your interaction with the person.  When we strive to show empathy to another person, we neither want to “one up” the person, nor fragilize them.  If you are genuinely trying to be empathic and supportive, you want to communicate that you are in this WITH them and you really want to understand and support them.  Empathy is, after all, the ability to vicariously experience the feelings or thoughts of another person – NOT to refocus the attention onto yourself.         

Interested in learning more?  We’d love to hear from you!

The Anxiety Monster and How To Tame It

Anxiety. 

Sometimes, just hearing the word can bring to mind all sorts of situations that stir up feelings of worry or apprehension.  Next thing you know, you feel your muscles tighten, your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, and your stomach starts churning.  You might feel light-headed and have difficulty concentrating.  These physical and mental cues serve a function – to tell us that our brain has perceived a threat to our well-being and to call us to action.  This makes sense, right? 

When there is a real threat to our well-being and the anxiety is prompted by fear, it is effective to act in a way that promotes safety and protection.  No one is advised to stay in a situation that could cause harm to themselves. 

But what happens if you are uncertain if the anxiety is effective or ineffective?  What if you are wondering if the emotion might be too intense for the situation, or acting on it inhibits actions or behaviors necessary to reaching an important goal or completing a desired activity?  This is where DBT skills can be very helpful.

In many situations, using Emotion Regulation skills is required.  Generally, these skills are helpful when an emotion is too intense or acting on the emotion might not be the most effective choice for the situation.  Checking the Facts can assist you with determining if your anxiety and/or its intensity is appropriate to the situation.  Checking the Facts is all about helping you slow down, gives you a step-by-step roadmap to encourage you look at the reality of the situation, and allows you to determine if an event that occurred is prompting your anxiety or if it is your interpretation of an event that is doing so.  This skill will also encourage you to use the Core Mindfulness skills of Observe and Describe which will assist you in becoming more mindful – which is the most effective state of mind to be in when you are making decisions.  Further, Checking the Facts can help you figure out your next steps such as Problem-Solving or Opposite Action.  Problem-Solving is a skill that helps you generate possible solutions and coping strategies for addressing the reality of a difficult situation.  Opposite Action can help you change your emotional experience when it doesn’t fit the facts of the situation.  Additionally, you might also consider checking on your use of the ABC PLEASE skill – a set of prompts to help you take care of your mind and body so that you are ultimately less vulnerable to intense emotions.  ABC PLEASE includes positive self-care activities like eating, sleeping or treating physical illnesses, as well as accumulating positive experiences that move you toward your goals, among other things.  The “C” of ABC PLEASE can be especially helpful if your anxiety is related to a future event. You might consider creating a detailed Coping Ahead plan that you can follow to help you get through the emotionally charged event more skillfully and effectively.  This type of plan encourages you to write out the details of the difficult situation, and how you want to handle your emotions and action urges while you are in it – and then, you practice it so you are prepared to use it when the actual situation arises.

Certainly, exercises to activate Wise Mind are helpful in terms of effectively managing anxiety.  My go-to is often paced or mindful breathing, and it works for many people.  Not only can it help ease some of the physical signs of anxiety, it can reorient your thoughts to the present so you can fully observe and describe the reality of the moment which allows you to determine how to participate most effectively.  Another Mindfulness activity is taking a moment to observe your surroundings and then describe them for exactly what they are without judgement.  This type of exercise can be very helpful in terms of grounding you to the present moment.  Once you activate Wise Mind, you are more prepared to look at the reality of the situation – both the facts and the emotions – which then supports effective behavior going forward.   

Interested in learning more specifically about how to use DBT skills to tame the Anxiety Monster?  We look forward to hearing from you!

Making-and Keeping!-New Year’s Resolutions

The holidays are pretty much behind us, yet there is still one more hurdle to clear as we approach 2017 – New Year’s Resolutions! 

Generally, we make New Year’s Resolutions with the very best of intentions.  Often, they are focused on enhancing our physical health or bettering our overall of quality of life.  We commit to losing weight, exercising more, being a more nurturing partner or friend, saving more money for a special trip or for our retirement . . . all great ideas and things that might make enhance our lives and futures.  So, what’s the problem? 

Actually, it is not necessarily a “problem” so much as we are often inclined to bite off a little more than we can chew.  Commonly, we make resolutions that are over-reaching, over-taxing or too broad.  Sometimes, we even decide to tackle more than one major change at a time.  When our resolutions have these characteristics, it can become difficult to follow through on them.  Therefore, we can struggle and become disheartened when we can’t live up to the impossible goals we have set for ourselves.  Then, the worst-case scenario can happen – we abandon our resolutions and may even begin to think of ourselves as failures.

So, what might be more helpful in terms of New Year’s Resolutions?  Not surprisingly, using DBT can be helpful in terms of how we approach our resolutions and how to stick to them.  

First, avoid making more than one significant change at a time – be fully mindful of the resolution that you are undertaking.  Change can be challenging; making multiple changes can be daunting and does not facilitate a person’s ability to be fully mindful of the task and does not promote the idea of being in the moment.  Making a firm commitment to one activity or resolution allows you to focus your attention and be mindful of your actions that lead you toward your goal.   

Second, look honestly at the possible resolutions and ask yourself which (if any) are in keeping with your real values and priorities.  It is more likely that you will stick to something that you have defined as being truly important to you.  How will you know if the idea fits this criterion?  My colleague has said that a true personal value is one that you act on even when no one else is there to see what you are doing.  If your resolution is rooted in a belief that is important to YOU, it is likely that you will be more committed to carrying out the steps necessary to effectively meet it.

Third, set realistic goals and action steps . . . and, define them behaviorally.  This is often the greatest pitfall of setting a resolution . . . and, a trap I have fallen into myself on more than one occasion.  Often, the resolution might be very broad, like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be a better friend” or “I want to finish my degree”.  These are fantastic ideas, but what do they mean in real life?  What are the specific action steps that you will take to move yourself toward the goal?  Are these action steps “do-able” in your life and are they behaviorally based?  So, instead of saying something general like “I want to lose weight in 2017”, a person might say “I want to lose 5 lbs. by March 1st”.  I am going to use a fitness calculator to help me determine the daily number of calories I will need to eat in order to achieve this goal.  I am also going to eliminate processed snacks from my diet and replace them with veggies and fruit.  Lastly, I am going to track my food intake after every meal so I can see where I am at in terms of calories.  This can help me make more healthy and satisfying choices related to what I eat.”  By setting realistic and behaviorally based goals and action steps, you have clear parameters for facilitating the change you have committed to and the ability to problem-solve effectively if things don’t go the way you had planned.

Lastly, be prepared to problem-solve the rough spots.  It was mentioned before that making changes in a person’s life can be tough.  It is unrealistic to think that even with a well-constructed plan everything will be smooth sailing.  Sometimes, when faced with the idea of sticking to plan or not, a person will “not”.  The key here is to get right back on track by looking objectively at what might have derailed you, and problem-solving about what could be done differently so that movement toward the goal can go forward.  Using our weight loss example, perhaps the person really enjoys salty snacks and gets off-track because of this.  In looking specifically at the chain of events leading up to the slip, it is discovered that the person really doesn’t like many types vegetables.  Further, the person says that when she brings vegetables to eat to replace a snack she often slips and eats chips instead.  Therefore, the action step of replacing processed snacks with fruits and vegetables might benefit from being tweaked to actually include only bringing fruit.  This still moves the person toward the goal of losing 5 lbs. by March 1st and problem-solves around the challenge to staying on track.  After all, the person’s goal isn’t to eat more vegetables . . . it is to lose weight.

Overall, resolving to make positive changes to move you toward a desired goal is fantastic.  Being thoughtful about how you do it is essential to successfully achieve it.  Just remember a few simple guidelines:

1)     Focus on one resolution at a time and be mindful of your steps towards achieving it.

2)     Choose a goal that is in keeping with your values and priorities – something that is really important to you, not to someone else.

3)     Create an achievable plan with behaviorally-based action steps that challenge you, but aren’t impossible.

4)     Problem-solve the struggles and don’t throw in the towel.

Best Wishes for a Fantastic 2017!!

Skillfully Navigating the Holidays

The holidays are upon us . . . and so is the dialectic of the season!

The holidays can be full of tradition and excitement, shopping for that “something special” for everyone on our list, and lots of celebrations with family and friends.  And, as fantastic and joyous as these things can be, they can also be stressful and overwhelming.  So, how do we stay balanced and enjoy the holidays?  By using our skills, of course!

One of the best ways to navigate the season is to stay present and positive in the moment – yes, practice Mindfulness!  Enjoy the festivities and conversation at the get-togethers, stay focused on the excitement you feel when giving or receiving a special, heartfelt gift . . . when you find your mind wandering to your “to-do” list or the next party you must attend or finalizing your dinner menu (etc.), bring yourself back to the moment.  The reality is that you won’t be able to enjoy the activities of the season if you don’t allow yourself to fully engage in them!

PLEASE maintain a focus on self-care . . . it’s important!  The PLEASE skill is all about ensuring that you take good care of yourself.  Remember that it is alright to say “no” to an invitation to another party, the office gift exchange or the request for extra volunteer help.  People benefit from “down time” to rest and recharge.  Also, be careful not to overindulge in the excesses of the season.  So often, people end up regretting all the food and merriment of the season, and these negative feelings can overshadow the fun and excitement.  Get good rest and make time to do the things you generally do to keep yourself on a balanced path.  These activities reinforce Wise Mind, leading to more effective choices and interactions with others. 

Another thing to consider is planning ahead for potentially uncomfortable or stressful situations – we call this Coping Ahead.  There might be relatives that we see or conversations that we have that often “trigger” negative feelings or thoughts.  By developing a plan that incorporates alternatives to deflect from a tense conversation topic at dinner or rehearsing an answer to a question from an intrusive acquaintance, you feel more prepared for the situation, feel more relaxed going into it, and are more able to open yourself to fully engaging in the fun.

Of course, there are some folks that simply don’t enjoy the holidays.  All of the parties, gift and cookie exchanges, volunteering to ensure that everyone gets a chance to experience some happiness and joy simply wears them out emotionally and is can feel very overwhelming.  Jokingly, we might refer to this person as “The Grinch”.  If you are the person that struggles to maintain a positive outlook about the holiday season, there are skills to help you get through the holidays, too. 

Reluctant to attend the mandatory office holiday party?  Dreading the obligatory visit to your in-laws?  One of the most effective strategies is Radical Acceptance.  By not fighting the reality of the situation and accepting that participation is required, you no longer have to suffer in it.  Instead, you have the opportunity to accept the situation for what it is and you free up your mental and emotional resources to be as effective in the situation as you can be. 

Think the holidays are too commercial and all about presents?  Spending time agonizing over the “perfect” gift for someone so he or she isn’t disappointed?  There can be a lot of pressure during this season, and sometimes this pressure can lead to avoidance and procrastination.  This can become a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.  In these situations, it is often effective to use the skill of Opposite Action – doing the opposite of what you feel like doing.  For example, if you are avoiding holiday shopping, consider scheduling it into your week and stick to the commitment.  In the end, you will have your shopping done and you will feel positive about yourself in that you stuck to your commitment.

Two other skills that are particularly helpful for me are Accumulating Positives and Alternate Rebellion.  Accumulating Positives is about fully participating in and enjoying positive events as they are happening, thereby increasing the likelihood of experiencing positive emotions.  In my case, my children love the holidays . . . I am a bit more on the “Grinch” side.  This being said, it generates feelings of happiness and joy for me when I see my children enjoying themselves at parties and such.  I am delighted when I can provide them with positive opportunities to develop pleasant memories of experiences.  This helps make the activities of the season far more tolerable for me.  In this same vain, my children love decorating our Christmas tree . . . I tend to see it as a chore.  As a form of Alternate Rebellion – doing something to rebel against convention that doesn’t have inherently negative consequences – I have a “Charlie Brown Christmas tree”.  It is an artificial tree that is short and has thin branches so it isn’t very bushy and full.  The kids are happy because they have a tree.  I am satisfied because they have a tree and I have gone against the convention of saving a huge, bushy and robust fir tree in my living room!

No matter how you approach the season, hopefully some of these ideas will help you enjoy it even more. 

Happy Holidays!!  

Supporting Family and Friends of Those Recovering

We are often asked by family members and loved ones how to best support and encourage a person who is in treatment.  The resounding answer is “Come to Family Skills Group!”  

Family Skills Group can be an integral part of a person’s treatment, and can help the client and their loved ones on multiple levels.  First, it provides a common language for everyone to use when talking about the day-to-day issues that can come up, and opens the door to a deeper level of understanding within the family unit.  Second, it familiarizes family members with the DBT skills that people use to move toward recovery.  This can promote compassion for the treatment process, and enhance their knowledge of the disorder.  Family Skills Group also teaches useful and effective problem-solving strategies.  This can improve relationships and organize the family around common goals.  

Participation in the Family Skills Group also demonstrates to the client that you are invested in their recovery and validates their efforts.  By coming to the group, and learning and practicing skills, family members can show that they too have an interest in the treatment process.  

Yes, participation in the group takes commitment . . . and, it is worth every minute!  The skills that are taught in DBT can benefit most everyone in various situations, and can lead to more effective interactions and a sense of balance in a person’s life.  In many cases, participating in the Family Skills Group doesn’t just help the client work toward increased effectiveness and mindfulness . . . it helps their family members do it, too! 

We are starting a new session of DBT Family Skills Group to begin end of  November / early December. If you are interested in learning more or reserving one of the limited spots available, please click here or call the Collaborative Oasis staff at (248) 663-7555.

Officially Open for Business!


We are so pleased to share that we are open for business and now accepting referrals for our comprehensive DBT program. Our office turned out better than our greatest expectations- we cannot wait to continue to share it with more and more of our community! Please explore the website with links to our Facebook and Twitter accounts and, of course, contact us with any questions you have.

We want to send out a huge thank you and all our gratitude to those who have supported us and to those who have already offered kind words of encouragement on our office and programming plans. Encouragement is a great Distress Tolerance skill and every major undertaking comes with some bumps in the road.

Also, please stay tuned as we will be posting an upcoming schedule for the educational skill building groups that we are offering that will be open to individuals who are not participating in our comprehensive program.

 StuffiesIt took our Reasonable, Wise and Emotion Minds to get Oasis up and running!  (Heart & Brain from TheAkwardYeti)