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What The CBT/DBT Center Taught Me

You may have heard of me before through my blog posts, but I’ve never really introduced myself. My name is Shira Davis, and I am the communications coordinator intern at the CBT/DBT Center. When I joined the amazing team here almost ten months ago, I had zero prior experience with CBT or DBT or really any kind of psychology outside of my very thick textbooks. For my last blog post, I will do a tell-all, a disclosure. What did I, the regular layperson, learn from the exclusive inside circle of the CBT/DBT Center team?

When I first came here, I had a lot of preconceived judgments about mindfulness, mainly including old men sitting in caves muttering to themselves. What did I, a regular young woman from New Jersey, have to do or gain from mindfulness? I was about to find out. Every week, the team here has an hour-and-a-half meeting to discuss certain issues that have come up during the week to support each other and troubleshoot. Each meeting starts off with a mindfulness practice that one member has to lead. I’m in my first DBT team meeting and I’m faced with the option of doing the mindfulness practice or just awkwardly watching everyone else do it instead. I chose to do it, which was a good choice as I had to learn to teach and lead some mindfulness practices in the future. Would it be a spoiler to say that all those DBT experts do know what they are talking about? Once I got over my judgments, I noticed the huge impact of mindfulness on my life. To this day, I use different mindful practices to help me in stressful situations (hey, who doesn’t?) or just to take a moment to be instead of doing.

Speaking of DBT team meetings, I also learned the importance of validation. It’s one of the founding principles of good relationships - to tell everyone that they make sense, that they are seen and understood. You’d think we’d all know how to do this, considering that we all want to be validated. But when I first started here, I remember being completely unable to support the other team members without turning to problem-solving mode. It was just… awkward. But thanks to the other wonderful team members here who called me out on this, I learned to validate other people. I can now tell you that what you’re going through is hard and that I am here for you. I can ask you if there is anything I can do to help support you through this. You’ll have to ask the others if I fully succeeded in that, but I’ve definitely made progress. Sometimes, it’s worth it to just plunge through the awkwardness to be there for someone else. By the way, validation is one thing that we can all do without special training. I was able to support even our highly capable and experienced team members when they needed it.

Speaking of our highly capable and experienced team members, I think one of the biggest things I am walking away with is an appreciation for all the energy and work that therapists put into their clients. At the same time, no one is infallible. One of our team agreements is that “all team members are fallible. Thus, there is little need to be defensive, since it is agreed ahead of time that team members have probably done whatever problematic things they are accused of. The task of the team is to apply DBT principles to one another, in order to help each member, stay within DBT.” Because at the end of the day, we’re all just trying our best. The world looks a little different when you see everyone as imperfect people just trying to do their best in an imperfect world.

The last thing I learned is the value of a team. DBT sets up an actual framework for a team with roles and agendas. I remember one team meeting that really illustrated the importance of having a team that always has your back. One provider was sharing an experience with a client that was difficult for both of them. That happens at times in DBT team meetings which are meant to be “therapy for the therapist”. Every person was feeling the pain; you could feel the sadness coming over the screen. But one person on the team pointed out the beauty in this situation: we were all feeling the pain of the provider and the client and there’s something beautiful and comforting in that as well.

It’s been an incredible experience working with the CBT/DBT Center staff and I’ve gained a lot. I hope that I’ve managed to give back by letting you in on some of that knowledge. B’hatzlacha!


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