Dialectical behavioral therapy benefits students

Christa Kelly, Staff Writer

The Center for Wellness and Counseling already embodies the value of service between their warm drinks, professional help and Monday doggie days. They took another step in this direction last month as they pioneered a new program to support the mental health of students. Joshua Kent, a CWC worker, is leading a weekly skill building group that uses dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, to help improve students’ well being. John Grohol, doctor of psychology, defines DBT as a collaborative, support orientated, cognitive therapy.

“DBT helps identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder,” he says, “and helps people to learn different ways of thinking that will make life more bearable.” This is partially done by helping a person identify their strengths and teaching them to build new ones.

Kent focuses on teaching students four main skills during the group: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

“These are the most important skills you can learn,” he says. “They make a life worth living.”

Mindfulness involves “being present and open for your experiences”. Distress tolerance is fairly self explanatory, but essential. “On this journey, there are problems that are going to come up”, Kent says. “If we can’t tolerate them, we’re likely to not deal with the problems or make them worse.” Emotion regulation involves how to deal with the feelings that these inevitable problems can bring up. It’s “having an understanding of your emotions. How do you work with them?” Interpersonal effectiveness brings other people into the discussion by building communication skills and learning ways of both “maintaining relationships and maintaining yourself.”

“This is a group that we should be offering more. I believe in the skill set.”

Kent states that a program like this should be mandatory for all students. He stresses that these are vital skills to have in college and in life after. He compares the group to “a first aid class,” a life necessity.

The group is small right now, with about four people regularly attending. Kent acknowledges that a small size is better for groups like this, but that he’d still like to see more people. They sit together in a conference room and hold discussions, workshops, and skill building exercises. The environment is welcoming.

“The heart of the group is learning,” Kent says. “We can start by pointing to skills and getting people to practice them.”

The group meets every Wednesday from five to six in the CWC. If you are interested in joining, please call 612-330-1707 to set up a short meeting with Joshua Kent.

This article was originally published in the March 8, 2019 issue.