Borderline Personality Disorder is a complicated way in which sensitive individuals have come to experience and interact with their worlds. Those with this pattern of personality are some of the most gifted, compassionate, and creative people to exist. They can also be some of the most tormented souls.
People with BPD are naturally biological sensitive. They came straight from the womb with big strong emotions. When they are sad they're distraught, angry enraged, and if happy they're elated. This all in infancy! Big emotions aren't bad, but if they're paired with the child being born into an invalidating environment (any type of abuse, poor fit with the parents, or any way in which the child is told they are wrong for being who they are) then the sensitive infant can turn into an adult with BPD. The "disorder" is just a set of personality traits and characteristics that are resulting from these two conditions 1. biological sensitivity and 2. an invalidating environment. When these add together they can create a pattern of traits that we diagnose as Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a spectrum and can range from barely noticeable to severely impaired. Anyone on that spectrum could be qualified as a Highly Sensitive Person, which is less stigmatizing.
The traits of BPD are: emotionally intense mood swings, in particular strong feelings of anger; impulsivity in areas related to spending, drug, alcohol or sexual activities, or simply impulsive emotion based decisions; chaotic relationships with significant others, friends, family, or colleagues; intense fear of abandonment with either extreme measures to stay in a relationship, being overly forgiving of partners' behaviors, or cutting off relationships to avoid being left themselves; a chronic sense of emptiness; poor sense of self with a changing chameleon-like identity; and at its more extremes self harm behaviors like burning, cutting, hair pulling, or head banging; suicidal thoughts or attempts; and dissociation or possible paranoia. For a diagnosis an individual would have over half of these characteristics.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy was created in the 1990's by Marsha Linehan to specifically address this hard to treat population. She found that the typical therapies that come from a soft accepting passive stance (humanist, person-centered, existential modalities) were not providing enough concrete change aspects for these clients. On the other hand, the more logic driven change oriented modalities, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Behaviorism, and Exposure work, were not sensitive enough to the clients' needs for validation and trust building. Meanwhile her clients had some of the most severe and dangerous behaviors including suicidal acts, self harm, addiction, and other impulsive behaviors. Linehan created DBT to balance both the change and acceptance orientations by providing very specific concrete skills while respecting the dignity and worth of the relationship. It has been one of the most successful evidence based treatments since its inceptions and has saved thousands of lives throughout the years.
To provide Dialectical Behavior Therapy a psychotherapist must obtain training past their graduate school programs, participate in a Consultation Team with other DBT therapists on a weekly basis, be trained in and provide both individual DBT therapy and DBT skills groups, and provide phone coaching.
Stephanie Johnston is one of the few clinicians in the Central Arkansas area that specializes in Borderline Personality Disorder and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. She has had the extensive full training from the Linehan institute and has ran the DBT program in the Mental Health Clinic at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System for several years. She is an adjunct professor in the Masters of Social Work Program at the University of Arkansas Little Rock where she teaches both Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy courses to future therapists.
At her part-time private practice at the Studio in West Little Rock, Stephanie offers the full DBT program to include Individual Therapy, Consultation Group for DBT therapists, 24/7 Phone Coaching, and Skills Group.
Individual DBT sessions are available Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. DBT Skills Group is held every Friday from 3-430pm with an admission point every 6 weeks.
The group is similar to a college course where you will learn the skills needed to regulate your emotions, tolerate distress, relate better with others, and practice mindfulness. (So there won't necessarily be any discussion about your history- you don't have to share much personally if you don't want to, all that's required is that you show up, learn the skills, and do the homework.) It uses the 2nd edition of the Marsha Linehan Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook .
If all of this resonates with you or someone you love you should call or text 501-902-5250 with any questions or to schedule a free consultation. DBT is so often the answer to those tormented souls trapped by their emotions. Please look into it further to see if this is the treatment you've been needing: you deserve to have a life worth living.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Balancing Change and Acceptance
Is DBT right for me?
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