The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

From Borderline to Balance: Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (DBT-PTSD)

When I first became interested in the Dialectical Behavior Therapy methods and curriculum (DBT), one of my mentors said, “Lisa, I strongly advise you NOT to get involved with this work. If you offer DBT Skills, you will attract the WORST clients!  They will all be severely agitating with Borderline, Bipolar or severe mood disorders, it will be a nightmare for you!”

I heard what she said, and I did respect her opinion, but there was something so powerfully intriguing about the evidence-based science behind DBT, and the fact that so many people were getting well from it – who had been considered “treatment resistant” prior to their DBT exposure.

I do like a challenge, however, and I was not afraid of this high risk population. Something inside me told me to continue…against the advise of this mentor, and others practitioners I knew.

So fast forward to today, six years post-DBT training, sharing the DBT curriculum with teens (14-17) and adults (18+) in my office in Westford, MA for several years now.  I have had the privilege  of witnessing dozens of my DBT clients, in both individual and group therapy, go through this cognitive re-structuring process, shed their false beliefs, deconstruct their traumas, grieve and move on to have healthy, happy, contented lives.

In the process, I have learned that approximately 70% of my clients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) suffer from severe co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),  related to traumas that occurred during childhood. These traumas were not processed or expressed at the time,  and they caused a corruption of the client’s personality, mental and social skills.

These unresolved traumas, when treated, often bring upon a rebirth process, and the client is no longer exhibiting the Borderline symptoms.  Therefore, I humbly submit that it would serve everyone if BPD could be renamed Intense Trauma Syndrome (ITS).

Here is why:

  1. The term Borderline is heavily stigmatized in my guild.  “Borderline” sounds as if someone is on the edge of a cliff about to jump, perhaps on the verge of…suicide? Murder? Something worse?  Witness my mentor’s advice above, plus,  each week I receive calls from clients who tell me “No one will work with me because I am Borderline.”  This is frustrating and heartbreaking to me.  Why is this heavily traumatized group eschewed because of their condition? Where should they go?  How will they get well?   If BPD was re-labeled as Intense Trauma Syndrome, I think they would be helped by more therapists!  But this requires more than a branding campaign…
  2. Borderline clients often exhibit highly dissociative symptomatology, chronic suicidality, and ongoing non-suicidal self-injury.  This is also a big turn-off to my guild.  Many of my colleagues will NOT work with suicidal clients.  Why?  Too much liability, too many collateral calls, too much danger. Moreover,  my clients feel as if they are tacitly shamed by the mental health profession for being Borderline.   Yet I have found that this population, when they are truly sick and tired of being sick and tired, pick up these DBT Skills and other therapeutic interventions, and start their healing process.  They do agree to a Safety Plan and stick with it. They learn, grow, and become healthier and successful members of society.   They do recover!
  3. When I tell my Borderline clients they have Intense Trauma Syndrome, and request that they stop describing themselves as Borderline, they start to feel so much better about their emotional challenges.  Many Borderline clients have described severe shame and self-hate due to their diagnosis. They feel hopeless and bereft of a cure. Receiving the Borderline diagnosis can make them feel worse! Here’s the H.O.P.E.  for Borderline clients,  Hold On, Pain Ends.

Solution Focused Therapy

My DBT Skills groups cover the entire curriculum in one year (42 weeks), which includes the strengthening of the commitment to wellness and psychoeducation, DBT skills training, skills-assisted exposure, with radical acceptance of the past trauma and its effects on their lives.

Four leaf DBT

Finally, we explore the promotion of self-compassion and efforts to prepare for returning to everyday life, to build a life worth living. When a client has graduated from their Intense Trauma Syndrome to the more normative anxiety, career, dating, relationship challenges they are on their way to be fulfilled and satisfied with their lives.

The Intense Trauma Syndrome causes people to become quite polarized in their thinking. They often see the world in black and white, all or nothing, right or wrong, good or evil terms.  There is not much wiggle room for the vast spectrum of imperfection that exists in all of us!  One of the earliest cognitive shifts we work on is the ability to hold OPPOSITE VIEWS in their minds without having a meltdown.

For example, I teach them that it is perfectly all right to love someone, but also hate them at times. It is fine to be in a room of friends or family, and yet feel very lonely.  It is not a serious problem to want to go out, and want to stay home.

Prior to learning DBT skills, these opposing thoughts would cause a lot of stress for them, and cause them to feel as if they were having a meltdown.  To help them decompress from their polarized inner self-hating dialogue, I have learned to reduce their stress by saying, “You are not having a breakdown, you are having a breakthrough!”  This often helps them to reframe the intensity of their emotions into a more helpful view.

Borderline1

What they need to learn is to go within and ask, “What do I need now?”  or “How can I make this better?”   Instead of saying “What’s wrong with me? Why am I like this?   I hate this!  I feel crazy! I can’t take it, I want to die!”

I teach my clients to stop asking WHY questions, but to ask HOW questions instead.  When we ask WHY, “Why am I like this?  Why don’t I enjoy parties?  Why am I so annoying to people? Why is this person ignoring me?  Why do people dislike me? “Why am I still single?” they are on a slippery slope into anxiety and depression and possible self-harm.

When they learn to ask HOW questions, they start to change, “How can I make this better?”  “How can I be useful?”  “How can I learn to stay calm when I am triggered?”  The HOW questions lead to discovery, growth, healing and empowerment.

In Conclusion

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a powerful healing modality.  From my experience, those clients suffering with BPD are particularly helped by this cognitive restructuring process, since typical pharmacological and talk therapy interventions do not help them very much.  From my perspective, DBT really feels like a new software program is slowly downloaded into their minds and replaces their previously corrupted and faulty software that was hurting them.
Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved

 

 

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Some Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation Resources for a More Peaceful Holiday Season

Hi,

I hope this message finds you well.

During the holidays, especially Thanksgiving-Christmas/Hanukah/Kawanzza-New Year’s-Valentines Day, aka The Red Zone, there are many more opportunities to feeling the pain of Compare and Despair, neglect, arguments,  loss, grief and a boatload of intense feelings.

You may also be forced to spend time with a relative you despise, or be tempted to eat food or drinks that make you feel sick. Being triggered all over the place your impulse issues may be whispering in your ear, “Drink me, eat me, buy me, smoke me, shop me, gamble me, escape into video games/Netflix” on and on.

Everyone goes through this, but some of us feel it a lot more deeply.

To that end,  I want to offer you a few resources from my MirthMaven archives to help you get through The Red Zone.  May you find some wonderful skills and tools here to get through those midnight blues, or whenever the intense feelings feel like too much:

  1. Extra Tools for Letting Go  (Wessan, November 2018, 25 min). You may enjoy this useful and entertaining video of ways to quickly let go of harsh feelings.
  2. The Red Zone – Chock full of tips and techniques for help with this holiday season.
  3. Compare and Despair – added insight for social media distress, feeling left out, unloved, unwanted.

As always, let’s remember that “Feelings are not Facts,” and to practice being a good observer as the storm passes through you. “This too shall pass” and “Never Give Up” have helped to carry me through some tough times in the past.  

At the very least, remember to use the “Take 5” breathwork method: breathe in to the count of five, hold for five seconds, and release to the count of five.   Repeat for at least six rounds of Take 5 breaths, to get re-centered and regain some inner calm. 

May you have  a more  peaceful holiday season,

thanksgiving2

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Butternut Bonanza, side dish or dessert

You asked, so here is my most recent discovery in the kitchen…

Butternut Bonanza (side dish or dessert)

Prep time: 10 Minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Team WW = 4 points (Serves 1)

Ingredients:

2 c. cooked butternut squash (or canned pumpkin)

Liquid Stevia to taste (usually four or five drops are enough, approximately half a squirt)
Cinnamon to taste
Salt to taste

½ c. Unsweetened apple sauce

¼ c. granola (my favorites are Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Fruit and Nut, or KIND Maple Quinoa Clusters)

My husband doesn’t like butternut, so I prepare this just for myself. I usually roast one whole butternut in four sections, good for four meals. But I add ingredients to only one section at a time.

First, I give it a good scrub down, to be able to eat the skin because the skin is loaded with nutrients. Second, scoop out seeds and discard. Cut in half, and then into quarters.

Spray your pan with Canola or other spray oil. I like to use a large CorningWare pan for this.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes (or longer, if it’s a bigger squash). For average sized squash, 50 minutes will be enough.

Take one of the quarters and with a fork mash up the squash within the skin adding Stevia, cinnamon and some salt. Return to shell of skin. Then top with applesauce, and  granola (think of a stuffed baked potato). If you have time, you could put the one piece back in the oven for 10 minutes to warm up the applesauce and granola, or eat as is. I think the warmth from the squash warms up the applesauce enough.

For the remaining 3 portions, definitely reheat each piece as needed, then mash with Stevia, cinnamon and salt, add applesauce and granola. It seems to taste freshest this way.

I hope you enjoy this savory side dish or yummy dessert!

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

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One of my favorite dialectical quotes…

#DBT du jour:

“Love tells me I’m everything. Wisdom tells me I’m nothing. And between the two my life flows.”

– Sri Nisargadatta

What does dialectical mean?  Learn more HERE.

If you are challenged with depression, anxiety, social issues, relationship troubles, impulse issues or addiction, DBT skills will help you become healthier, stronger and more capable of coping with your emotions.  DBT is a Solution Focused therapy that gets effective results, and quickly!

Up Next:  Mindfulness and Interpersonal Effectiveness skills training in Westford, MA starts 11/06/19. Learn more HERE.

Fun fact: when you worry about the past too much, you become depressed; when you obsess about the future, you become anxious.  Learning to live in the present moment, aka practicing Mindfulness, can reduce 90% of your depression and anxiety.  Yes, you will still need to learn better ways to solve your life’s issues, but if you learn to stay in the  present  you will be so much more peaceful and useful.  Learning Mindfulness skills helps you get there.

If this speaks to you, please visit lisawessan.com and complete the CONTACT FORM.  I will contact you within 24 hours to discuss joining our next DBT group or working together individually, whatever you need.

Onward and Upward,
Lisa Wessan

Four leaf DBT

 

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Good food, good mood! Fabulous Zero Point Tuna Salad 

Prep 10 min
Serves 1

Ingredients:

½ cup beans

½ cup corn

6 oz. tuna packed in water

2 T. Salsa (scan your label, make sure it is zero point salsa)

2-3 T. chopped onion (I like red onions for this)

1 clove garlic

Optional: 

Add some chopped parsley (@1/2 cup)

½ of a jalapeno or habanero for extra spice

1 red pepper

 

Drain and empty tuna into a bowl.  Mash it up a bit.  Add the beans, corn and salsa.  Mix it up.   Add the chopped onion and garlic. Add the optional ingredients.

Serve as is, or use red pepper or cucumber slices to scoop it up (instead of crackers).  YUM!

Enjoy your zero point tuna salad!

To your best health,

Lisa Wessan

 

 

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9/11 Memorial in NYC: 10 Tips for the visit

 

This visit to the 9/11 Memorial required some serious planning, you cannot just walk in and expect to get in.  Since a few of you expressed interest in my visit last year, I’m sharing my notes for all to see, so my good research is not wasted!

1. Definitely book tix ahead online – then you will have no wait to get in.

2. We loved the 9/11 Memorial app, very useful inside the museum. Robert DeNiro narrates it! He was excellent. It’s free, and big MB, so download it before you go(took about 15 Minutes to download on my phone). Don’t waste time downloading it at the museum. 

3. We did the tour for outdoors, the Memorial aka The Void (their term). Our guide was terrific, learned a lot about those pools and the surrounding area. Lots of secret codes, roses, things happening that are curious. The guide breaks it down nicely. Suggestion: take the outdoor tour early in day before you enter museum. Once you go in, you cannot exit and return. (Too bad about that, we would like to have taken a break and returned later. )

4. Films: they show THE FIRST PITCH film only once a day at noon. Make sure you arrive in time to get in there, it was fascinating…we watched all three special films in main auditorium from 12-1:15. 

5. Don’t miss the REBIRTHING film, it plays all day in a different theater.

6. The museum café was pricey and not up to par IMHO, sorry I didn’t pack lunch. So definitely bring lunch, snacks, whatever you need for a 4-6 hour day.

7. And finally, it was NOT as emotional as I thought it would be – the upliftment comes from seeing ALL THE GOOD that people did to help each other…that made me ferklempt. The exquisite levels of giving and sacrifice were ASTOUNDING!   I learned so much, even though I was living and working in NYC when this happened.

8. Easy access from the 4/5 Express train to Fulton St, grateful for the NYC SUBWAYS! They are awesome!

9. After another marathon of walking, we went up to Chinatown for soothing foot massage. I have a great place at 107 Mott Street, clean, great value and they are awesome. You can just walk in, no reservation needed.

10. Lunch or Dinner suggestion: Right near the foot massage place, we had a delicious dinner at Little Shanghai, 144 Mulberry St. Yum. No reservations. 

The trauma of 9/11 still cannot be grasped – I realized after the 5 hours that it is just impossible to imagine what it’s like to run from an exploding building while chunks of furniture, restaurant trays, other debris and parts of airplane are falling out of the sky on your way… this horror was just off the charts. 

Yet there was SO MUCH BEAUTY in the recovery and “rebirth” process…which adds to the mystery of the need for contrast, paradox and tension in this Universe.  

 Triple OY! Loved it, lots of contrast, deeply moving, ultimately inspiring. Highly recommend! 

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

Source: Notes from my journal 10/01/18.

 

 

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I ran my first 5K race in Woodstock, Vermont!

My husband and I were planning a trip to Woodstock, VT, so I was looking to see what’s happening up there August 2-4, 2019…

When I saw that there was a 5K race Saturday morning, 9 am, I knew I would be there. Plus, the race took place at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park, so this was a no brainer for me.

8/3/19 was a perfect weather day for this race, at 65 degrees, no humidity, no bugs, yes, it was exhilarating! I felt light as a feather!

I’m going to run many more 5Ks as I get ready for the next level…so grateful💕

Other highlights of the weekend included visiting the alpacas…

I love these alpacas, such sweet faces!

 

Woodstock has many charming nooks and crannies. Favorite dinner: The Daily Catch. Sublime seafood! Favorite stores: the Unicorn, and Simon Pearce in Quechee, where you can see fascinating glass blowers at work on lower level of the store, plus upstairs there is a nice lunch spot next to a waterfall!)

After brunch, Gary assisted an elderly woman with her plants✨

All along the streets of Woodstock are gorgeous flowers!

Woodstock and Quechee are so warm and welcoming, I’ll be back🐾

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Summer travels…from New Lebanon, NY to North Adams, MA

My sister and I have enjoyed many wonderful forays into the Berkshires. This summer we visited North Adams and Williamstown, MA.  There are many buried treasures here, including  MassMoca, The Birdsong Gallery (for whimsical clothes), dinner at Grazie, and other fun spots…

Favorite piece at MassMoca by Kapoor.

Visiting dear friend Alex Fisher in New Lebanon, NY (next to Williamstown,MA).

Admiring Amy’s new eyeglasses💕


Loved to visit MASS MOCA!

Seen in New Lebanon NY during morning hike near Shaker Village and Museum.
Loved this tasty vegan burger, thanks Alex & David💕

So refreshing to visit friends and family in the Berkshires this past weekend💕

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“Free Fun Fridays” in Massachusetts

 

Gender Bending 1
I loved this exhibit on Gender Bending Fashion!

Gender Bending 2
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Gender Bending closes 8/25/19)

Heads up to local residents of the Commonwealth and all summer visitors…this is a great opportunity to visit sculpture parks, museums, presidential libraries and other cool places for free this summer…visit Free Fun Fridays to learn more (extends through August 30, 2019).

Bring your friends, families and favorite co-workers!

Enjoy,

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

PS – for DBT students, add to your Pleasant Events List!

 

 

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Summer Update: Outstanding Media, Accolades, Articles and New DBT Groups

CONTENTS 

I. Outstanding Media: Articles, Podcasts, and television/streaming offerings that are useful, inspiring, motivating and usually entertaining.

II. Accolades, Awards and Recent Articles.

III.  Upcoming DBT workshops in Westford, MA.

IV. Quotes I am pondering


I. Outstanding Media

we-all-have-secrets (2)

  • Listen to Keeping Secrets from TED Radio Hour in Podcasts. This is an engaging talk about secrets, how we keep them and use them. It asks us,  “How many closets we are in?” Oh what a good question!  Yes, coming out the closet is not just for the LGBTQ community, many more closets exist and there is a new freedom and happiness in getting out of our closets! A worthy task…
  • Edith Eva Eger, PhD, at 90 years of age just published her book, The Choice. This is an incredible story of how Edith and her sister Magda survived Auschwitz.  It took 45 years of therapy for her to start talking about her experience. She was recently on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah (Season 9, Episode 5. This should still be on your TV “On Demand.” Also available in podcast). Edith shared so much wisdom, insight and stories of nearly impossible resilience. So many pearls!  I love her deep levels of compassion and wisdom concerning recovery from trauma, which applies to all of us.  This was one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen on moving from trauma to transformation.

II.     Accolades, Awards and Articles –  Wessan in the News… March – June 2019


III.        Upcoming Summer and Fall Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Group (DBT)               in Westford, MA

dbt-skills

  • New Adult (18+) and Teen groups (14-17) starting July 17, 2019 and in the fall. Click HERE to learn more.
  • DBT MasterMind Group starting in August 2019, for advanced students and graduates of the one year program.

IV. Quotes I am pondering…

  • “The first Truth, probably, is that we are all connected, watching one another, even the trees.” Arthur Miller, Playwright, 1915-2005 (as heard on the HBO documentary, “Arthur Miller: Writer” 2018).

 

  • “God loves things by becoming them.” ~ Richard Rohr, Franciscan Monk, Author, Teacher.

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.
www.LisaWessan.com

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