DBT-Informed Creative Arts Group for Teens Launching January 2019

Facilitated By: Jacqueline Anderson, M.Ed & Resident in Counseling
When: High School Group: Tuesdays from 4:00-5:15 pm

Middle School Group: Wednesdays from 4:00-5:15 pm
Four Modules (six sessions per module)
Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, Interpersonal Skills
Cost: $450/module (works out to $75/session)
Location: Sunstone Counseling – McLean 1485 Chain Bridge Rd, Suite 300 McLean, VA 22101

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills help individuals live more mindfully, better manage intense emotions, reduce impulsivity, and improve communication in relationships. You can learn more about it by watching this video: What is dialectical behavior therapy for adolescents (DBT)?

What does it mean that the group is DBT-informed?

This group is is not part of a standard DBT program (true DBT programs provide a team approach that involves phone coaching, individual therapy, a skills group, and team consultation), though it is required for our members to be in individual therapy to participate in this group. We will occasionally draw from other approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and there is, of course, a large creative arts component to this group as well. However, we will go through the four modules of Marsha Linehan’s DBT Skills Group Curriculum (mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal skills) and we will cover key DBT skills within those modules each week.

What is the purpose of creative arts in this group?

The creative arts component to this group serves a few purposes. First, it helps participants feel more engaged in the group because they have something to do and aren’t just listening to the teaching. Second, the activities will directly reinforce the skills being taught and will help participants retain the concepts better. Finally, the process of making art itself is therapeutic, reducing stress and bringing about new personal insights. No artistic experience is necessary to participate!

What will a typical session look like?

Each session will start with a brief mindfulness exercise. Then, we will go through the DBT skill for the day. After that, we’ll move into a creative arts activity, which will be connected to the skill. For example, when I teach about mind states (emotional mind, rational mind, wise mind), participants will paint and decorate a face mask depicting what “wise mind” means to them. (The reasonable mind is driven by logic, the emotional mind is driven by feelings, and wise mind is a middle-ground between the two.) There will be a time of written reflection with a few question prompts as well as group discussion for those who feel comfortable sharing.

Who might benefit from this group?

This group is ideal for anyone who has difficulty managing intense or extreme emotions, makes impulsive decisions or reacts impulsively, engages in self-harm or self-destructive behaviors, or struggles with conflict at home or at school. Ultimately, this group will benefit anyone who wants to improve how they’re dealing with life and gain new coping skills! It is important to note that anyone struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts must be actively committed to safety in order to join this group.

What if I’m nervous about joining?

Joining a group can be intimidating because you won’t know completely what to expect or who will be in the group with you until the first day. It is common to look for reasons not to join – because it’s uncomfortable to step into the unknown. At the same time, great personal growth can come from moving out of your comfort zone in this way and giving it a try! What you can count on is that the group will be filled with other adolescents who are in the same place as you, open to trying something new and learning valuable coping skills. Confidentiality is also very important in this group. We all commit to keeping everyone’s identities and any information shared confidential. Finally, there is no pressure to share out loud. While sharing is a part of this group, the focus will be on learning new skills through expressive arts and on self-reflection.

How long does the group run and when can newcomers join?

This is an ongoing group and we will accept new members at the beginning of each module (every six weeks). Participants will get the greatest benefit if they are able to complete all four modules. A commitment to being on time and attending every group is vital for the entire group to successfully master the material together.

Why do I need to be in individual therapy to participate?

This is primarily a skills group. There is sharing in the group, but it is limited. The focus is more on practicing skills vs. dealing with a crisis going on that week. Research shows that DBT is the most effective when there is dedicated time to learning the skills (i.e. this group) in conjunction with individual therapy to provide more personal support and reinforcement. It is important to note that the teen’s individual counselor is still the primary contact for any crises or emergencies. I will ask for a release to be signed so that the counselor and I can work together if needed.

How does payment work?

The cost for this group is $75/session, which includes all art supplies. Participants will be billed for the module’s sessions ($450/six sessions) one week in advance of the start of each module. Refunds will not be given for any sessions that the individual cannot attend.

How can I join?

If we are not already working together through individual therapy, we will schedule a 55-minute intake session ($75) that will include me, the teen, and at least one parent/guardian. We will pick a start date based on when the next module begins!