One of my favorite TV shows is the American public television program This Old House. The typical format depicted the reconstruction of a long neglected house from ramshackle to resplendent over the course of a season. The part I loved the most was when the carpenters came in after all the plumbing, electricity and structural work had been completed and the finishing efforts commenced. That’s when the artistry came to the fore – when a newly fabricated or restored door, window, archway or added living space transformed an old house into a well crafted new home.
I admired and respected the men and women who applied their artistic vision and skills to beautifully restore a place where people would live new lives. I often wished I could do that kind of work, but truth be told, I lacked the necessary skills required.
But I did find my place in the field of communications, forging a career in the media including newspapers, television, documentary videos, websites and other social media platforms, Many of these projects focused on mental health conditions, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
You may wonder what this has to do with construction work. The connection is that building a house, a career or what Marsha Linehan, the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), calls “a life worth living” requires mastering a particular and pertinent set of skills.
Some of the earliest mental health work we did in BPD was collaborating on video projects with Dr. Linehan, In addition to psychotherapy her DBT also stressed the importance of developing improved social skills to help people better navigate the rough waters of BPD.
The good news is that DBT social skills can be learned on your own, i.e., you don’t necessarily have to be in psychotherapy to develop them. There are several organizations that now offer stand-alone DBT training. And you can also find a number of DBT skills books, online classes, videos and websites. Google is a good place to start looking (try “dbt self help”).
Just like the mastering the art of creative carpentry, learning the DBT social skills, practicing them in real life and having them become second nature takes time and a good deal of effort. It may not be easy, but little about BPD is easy. However, it can be done.