Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to attend Marsha Linehan’s two day DBT Workshop in London. As the only non-clinician in an entire lecture theatre of over 250 people, I was worried I would feel out of place or unable to keep up with the content. However, I could not have felt more at home there; as soon as I arrived I was greeted with a beaming smile and warm hug from the organiser, and made to feel like one of the family by each and every clinician I met over the two days.
My anxiety was painfully high, due to the fact that my therapist was there – and I was feeling incredibly hyper-vigilant around this. Also, a crowd of 250 is rather a big feat in itself for someone like me in a situation like that! However, I was so skilful throughout, using a ton of Opposite Action, Paced Breathing and making sure I looked after my PLEASE skills to reduce my vulnerability to Emotion Mind.
Although the anxiety was physically nauseating, with respect to the workshop itself I was 100% in my zone. I didn’t feel bored or lose concentration for a single minute, which is an absolute miracle for me. I was engaged throughout, able to laugh at Marsha’s jokes, relate to a lot of the examples she expressed as well as her own experiences, and even help out a few DBT novices sitting by me when they were having difficulties understanding the content!
This of course I was chuffed about 😉
The workshop was originally meant to be based on the Emotion Regulation module of DBT, and we spent most of the first day being briefed on this. However we also dipped into Distress Tolerance, DBT and Spirituality, and other aspects as dictated by Marsha’s passion and flow.
Despite knowing a large bulk of the surface content, what I found fascinating was the empirical evidence underlying each of the skills Marsha talked about, how these skills came about, and all her witty and entertaining anecdotes – many of which were personal to her own or her clients’ experiences.
I met many interesting people from different backgrounds, and with varying degrees of DBT training, who had flown in from all over the world (e.g. Copenhagen, France, Dubai, Jordan); and all of whom I was totally honest with about my diagnosis and reason for being there.
Every single person I came into contact with expressed an interest in me (probably due to the fact I was clearly the youngest one there), my history and most significantly, my recovery – which was the most valuable form of reinforcement I could have been given. In fact, I even received a response to a thank-you email from the president of the Society for DBT saying that she would be “honoured to have me as a colleague one day”, as a final farewell!
During the conference I did of course have all the interpersonal sh*t going on with my therapist. I saw her a bunch of times within the crowd; and felt like a meerkat on high alert, or a spy, watching her every move. Our relational difficulties recently have been overwhelming to say the least! I actually took the opportunity to speak to some of the DBT experts about my current situation with her and get some advice on how to proceed with or without her as my therapist…
The general consensus was that the situation sounded extraordinarily complicated, and that my feelings around it were totally understandable and appropriate. At the same time, they challenged my methods of communication and urged me to give our relationship just one last chance, and advised me on how to go about doing so. They could see my love for DBT very clearly, and were keen for me to continue with my program, especially considering the lack of other full-program DBT options available to me.
In fact I saw my therapist today for our session which I had originally cancelled, and I cannot express the difference in how it went. I truly believe that this has happened at this time for a reason; and that the workshop provided us both with much necessary food for thought. She genuinely listened to me today, validated my experiences, agreed on much of what I was saying, and finally took some ownership for earlier ineffectiveness on her part! I could not be more pleased with how the bulk of the session went, and believe me, I am surprised at this in and of itself.
I feel like perhaps this was most of what I have needed all along; simply for her to acknowledge where she has messed up, apologise for the distress it has (inadvertently) caused me, and take the necessary steps towards repairing the ruptures.
All in all, it is a relieving ending to a hectic and emotional week!