Walking Through Darkness With Your Teen - Part 2

Since the first week in April when our teen went to an inpatient hospital, we've set up regular visits with a psychiatrist and therapist. We learned of and used an excellent service here in Austin, the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, who will come out to the house to check on a patient. What an amazing service.  After a second hospitalization in May, we learned that not all hospitals are created equal.  While Shoal Creek doesn't look like much at first glance, they provide excellent care. Due to a lack of beds available in May, we were forced to send our teen to another, newer, seemingly nicer, inpatient facility in town.  Just two-and-a-half days there led us to get her out and file a formal complaint with the state.  Fortunately, she was able to get a bed a Shoal Creek fairly quickly and got the care she needed.

This time, upon discharge, we were set up with IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) in a group called "DBT." Thursday was our last night of the 7-week, 3-time-per-week program and I have one word: wow.  Ken said DBT should be required in every high school curriculum.  I agree!  I spent an entire 9 weeks of my high school Home Ec class planning a mock wedding.  I was the bride.  It was a total waste of time! Why not spend the 9 weeks having kids learn the four modules of DBT:
1. Mindfulness
2. Distress tolerance
3. Emotion regulation
4. Interpersonal effectiveness

I would say that DBT has helped Ken and me as much as it's helped our teen, if not more.  DBT has helped us as parents really think through how we communicate with each other and our kids.  Before DBT, when any of my kids came to me with an emotion I didn't understand or I felt was over-exaggerated, I would try to lecture or reason.  For example:

Old Way
Teen: Everyone hates me. I'm disgusting.
Me: No you're not! You know plenty of people like you. (I'd list examples.)

New Way
Teen: Everyone hates me. I'm disgusting.
Me: The way "Bill" talked to you made you feel worthless. What a jerk.

Okay, this is a super-simplistic and cheesy way to describe validation, but you get the idea.  Think about when you are upset and are venting your feelings.  You don't want someone telling you to just stop feeling that way.  One of the therapists said, "Telling your teen to stop being sad is like telling a person standing in the rain to stop being wet."

DBT has helped shift the way I view any type of conflict or high-emotion moment with my family.  We aren't perfect at it, but we're constantly working on it.  There is SO much more (12 hours per week for 7 weeks-worth) to DBT that I won't share here, but I'm happy to visit in person with anyone who has questions about it.  Also, let me add the caveat that we had excellent leaders/social workers.  There was one family in our group who had attended another DBT group before coming to Shoal Creek and they said it was horrible.  It's just like anything else.  Do your research and get some feedback from the community before deciding where to go.

My next blog will bullet-point some things we've learned over the past few months.


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