Open Pages: Mindfulness in Dialectical Behavior Therapy

APA Books Open Pages is an ongoing series in which we share interesting tidbits from upcoming & recent books. Find the full list by browsing the Open Pages tag.

What does this mindfulness practice look like? Contemplative mindfulness practices can be found across Eastern and Western religious and spiritual traditions, and there is no single, specific, or “right way” to practice mindfulness as a dialectical behavior therapist. However, because DBT incorporates many concepts from Zen Buddhism, it is common for dialectical behavior therapists to have experience with mindfulness practices from this tradition. Dialectical behavior therapists practice what they teach, and as a result, the same skills we ask our clients to practice are the skills we practice ourselves. For mindfulness, this means that therapists using DBT practice observing and describing their experiences without judgment or evaluation, intentionally choose to one-mindfully do things with full attention each moment at a time, and aim to be effective with their actions by being sensitive to the context of each moment. In addition, dialectical behavior therapists work toward having moments of their life in which they can let go of the need to observe and describe experiences and instead fully participate without conscious awareness of each moment by fluidly responding effectively, as if they are in “the zone” that athletes find themselves in when at peak performance. Learning these DBT skills is hard for clients, and it can be equally hard for us as therapists.

From Chapter 12, “When the Therapist Gets in the Way,” in Managing Therapy-Interfering Behavior: Strategies From Dialectical Behavior Therapy by Alexander L. Chapman and M. Zachary Rosenthal. Copyright © 2016 by the American Psychological Association. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, including, but not limited to, the process of scanning and digitization, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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