My First DBT Session


I just got back from my first DBT session.  The panic attack started coming, as expected.  There was a woman in the waiting room who could tell I was freaking out and tried to use distraction methods to make me feel better.  She has been attending DBT for almost a year.  I gotta say, it worked.  I was able to calm myself down because she was talking to me and engaging me.  I wasn’t so worried about where I was or what I was about to go into.

Thank God the group is small.  I was expecting a room full of people.  There were only 3 other patients, besides myself, the doctor, and an intern.  Ok, I can handle that.  They were talking about willfulness vs willingness.  Then they were talking about using a “half smile”.  I barely understood a word of what they said.   Throughout the entire 1 ½ hour session I was floating in and out of reality.  I really tried to focus and pay attention, but then I would get tunnel vision and my head would feel fuzzy.  I couldn’t concentrate.  And when I could concentrate, I had no idea what they were saying.  I wanted to cry.  I was so frustrated.  I was also very intimidated.  They spent a lot of time talking about not being willful, but barely any time on HOW to accomplish that.  They weren’t focusing on HOW to be willing.    I feel like I have a loooong way to go here.  I guess I knew that going in.  I was told it would be a 1-2 year commitment. 

I ended up calling the doctor almost as soon as I left.  I felt like I was perceived as being difficult, and I wanted her to know that I was a willing participant.  I explained that I was just very confused and overwhelmed by the whole thing.  She said it will get better.  Most everyone else who has gone through DBT has said that it will get better.  I guess I can just do the next right thing and hope that’s enough.

I had planned to talk about what I learned in this post, but I didn’t retain much in my session.  Apparently pasting a half smile on your face will make you feel better.  I have been trying to do that since I got back to work.  I guess I feel a little better than I did.  I am going to keep it up.  Hopefully in the future I will have more skills to pass on.

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Categories: Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, DBT, Dissociation, Health, Life, Mental Illness, Panic Attack, Stress, Therapy | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “My First DBT Session

  1. Think you did great for a first time, you were there! Don’t give up 🙂

  2. You should be proud of yourself. You stuck it out!!! The half smile skill just makes me more upset. It feels invalidating so I never use it. There are others that do actually work. Good Luck & Keep it up.

  3. Bourbon

    I remember when I first went to DBT… I was so dissociated I couldn’t retain things well either. The half smile – I had completely forgotten about that! DBT really helped me though. Stick with it, it will get easier once you get to know the group members. Wish you the best. Bourbon

  4. It took the better part of 6 months before DBT made ANY sense to me at all. When it did finally kick in, it helped a great deal. I spent a year doing the sessions and now I feel well enough that I haven’t been in for over a year. It’s great stuff, just don’t expect it to work over night. Hang in there.

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