How You Can Help
There are many, many ways you can help, but from a DBT perspective there are perhaps four.
There are many, many ways you can help, but from a DBT perspective there are perhaps four. The first is to understand the difficulties your loved one is experiencing from a scientifically validated approach, such as DBT. The theory behind DBT is solidly founded in scientifically based principles. The theory behind DBT is called the biosocial theory and you can read about it elsewhere on this website. This theory will give you a great understanding into what is happening for your loved one.
This second is to learn effective validation skills. In brief , validation is communicating that the person’s experience makes sense and is understandable in some way. The biosocial model explains why this is helpful. Validation is a core skill in DBT and central to helping people who come to DBT for treatment. Effective validation is a skill that can be learnt with practice, and in our experience major changes can come about when significant other develops the skills taught in DBT.
If you look in chat rooms, on YouTube, at blogs and other social media you will find people discussing whether to involve family members by disclosing difficulties. One common discussion is about whether to tell parents about self-harm or other problem behaviours. You find lots of advice from people to not tell parents or loved ones. This advice is driven by bad experiences or fears that: parents can’t be trusted, things might change for the worse afterwards, loved ones will get angry, they’ll tell my teachers/work and so on. These fears all centre around invalidation. The person fears that telling someone will be an invalidating experience. Invalidation and the fear of being invalidated can increase a person’s distress and make it harder to accept support. So learning how to validate, is crucial.
The third way you can help is to learn about change from a DBT perspective. Change is important for anyone wanting to overcome emotional problems. DBT has many changes strategies and teaches skills such as mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. If your loved one is in DBT you can really help by learning about the skills they are trying to build. You can learn how to encourage the use of these skills, and to reinforce them when the person puts them to use. It is also important to know how to balance supporting and encouraging change with validation when helping someone
The final way you can help is to look after yourself effectively. Caring for anyone with a psychological problem can be tough, and it becomes more demanding the more complex the problems. If you experience sleep problems for just a few nights it could negatively impact on your ability to be an effective support. Longer-term impacts can include depression, anxiety, problems with alcohol, and so on, all of which will definitely make it harder to be more effective. In the end you may develop burn out or compassion fatigue, and that will really make things tough.
Information for families on how to help:
- How to Help a Loved One with Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 1 | Part 2
- Families on the Line Using Dialectical Behavioral Therapy