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The “and” Therapy


When a therapist attends an advanced dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) training, they notice a distinct modification in the use of language by fellow therapists by day 3 or 4. The therapists will all begin to use the word “and” in almost every interaction and the word is distinctly enunciated.

When we are passionate about a position or belief, it is often difficult to see another’s point of view. In fact, we often take an extreme stance on our particular perspective in order to further solidify our point. We frequently draw an arbitrary line in the sand, holding true to our convictions, especially when they are tied to a deep belief or value.

There is a tremendous amount of information available about DBT, an evidence-based treatment for improving emotion regulation, and building a life worth living. The literature describes the components of comprehensive DBT therapy; the stages of treatment, the skills training modules and its creation by Marsha Linehan.

The “and” in a typical DBT informed conversation often replaces the words such as “but”, “or” , “either” .

Dialectical

I believe strongly in my position on this subject, AND I can see that you believe in yours.

Non-Dialectical

I believe strongly in my position on this subject, but you believe in yours.

Or

Either my position on this subject is correct, OR yours is (but I know mine is the correct point).

To be dialectical in its most basic description is to find a way synthesize positions that are (at first glance) opposites. In order to do this, one must be willing to honor the kernel of truth in each of those positions.

  • I believe in open communication AND some things are best kept to oneself.

  • I feel alone AND there are people that care about me.

  • I really want a cheeseburger AND I want to eat healthy.

  • You betrayed my trust AND you broke my confidence because you thought you were helping.

  • You are my friend AND you hurt me sometimes.

  • I feel rage towards my perpetrator AND I care about him/her.

  • I don’t agree with high taxes supporting a nonworking underclass AND I believe in a culture that is compassionate, cares for the ill, the elderly, the wounded and the unlucky.

  • I believe a teenager has the right to privacy AND I can understand why parents need to restrict privacy at times.

I love providing dialectical behavioral therapy AND it is challenging work at times.


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