The Lighter Side of Transformation

Observed and reported by Lisa Wessan, LICSW

When you are addicted to Drama…

Dear Drama

Even if you don’t have a chemical addiction (Alcohol, Pills, Sugar, Flour, Dairy,  Cigarettes etc), you might be addicted to crises, drama, or intense emotions that put you center stage.

You could even be addicted to isolation, anger, hatred, “Compare and Despair”  and other emotional states…it’s universal.  Ideally, no one would feel shame about their impulse issue, and more than half the battle is naming and releasing the shame around these issues. “If you can name it, you can tame it!” is one of the most hopeful slogans of my guild.  We are all striving to grow, learn and heal from whatever ails us.

In my Westford, MA, DBT Skills Group (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), we recently explored addiction models, including Total Abstinence, Harm Reduction and Dialectical Abstinence.

Total Abstinence is useful  when you have tried 1000x or more to practice Moderation Management but it failed. Moderation Management has you set a boundary or limit to what you can do before you are at risk.   For example, if you have a challenge with alcohol, saying “Two drinks per evening, and no more than twice a week.”  If you consistently zoom past that limit then Moderation Management has failed, and you cannot get well with that system.

Complete abstinence is usually for those who know that “One cookie is not enough, and a thousand are too many. ”   For those people who cannot enjoy one or two cookies, for whom the desire to keep going will override all rational thought, complete abstinence from cookies is the easier, softer way.   You make the decision once and for all, and then keep surrendering to it because you know it is less painful than the alternative inner haggling dialog on whether to indulge “this time” or not.

So when moderation is impossible…then you know.  Usually you cannot skip straight  into to total abstinence…most of us do the hokey pokey for a while with Moderation Management before we surrender. Fun  fact: The whole journey is necessary  for your inner process to be complete. 

Dialectical Abstinence is a middle path for those who cannot,  or will not, practice total abstinence from their substance abuse, or addictive behavior, yet ultimately desire total abstinence.  Yes, it’s the perfect paradox, “I want to abstain, but I won’t right now.”  Moderation Management and Harm Reduction are applied here to manage your addiction and prevent a complete relapse.

Harm Reduction is allowing for a thought system to be flexible enough so that if someone has one drink, or one cookie, they don’t say, “Oh what’s the use, why bother, I might as well go all the way and finish the bottle (or box of cookies)!”   Harm reduction takes you out of the dualistic, all or nothing, black and white thinking so that you might have three cookies and then say, “Ok, that exceeded my limit, but I’m going to stop right here. It’s good enough for today.”

As my old beloved professor Christopher Lasch at the University of Rochester once said “We live in a culture of addiction.”  Lasch was fairly well known for his book on The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (1979), but he had a deep belief that the rise in our addictive culture was correlated to our self-absorbed lifestyles.

Self Centered

So much of our need to medicate ourselves or have a Pity Party for ourselves is tied into our “Me-Me-Me” anxiety and fear.  Clearly there is no simple altruistic solution for our  multidimensional addictions.  The research and science on this vast topic has repeatedly shown that  when we do aim to give service and get out of our heads for a while we can find some relief and peace when focusing on fulfilling others’ needs.

And yet, if you are obsessed with others’ well being and are codependent, then you have another kind of addiction…which requires detaching and letting go of others’ business!  Oh my, it’s a slippery slope in the land of addiction!

I find with my DBT students that many of them are recovering Drama Queens and Kings.  Before they started this healing process, they were often embroiled in wildly high risk and/or  debilitating situations.  Once they realize that they do have an addiction to Drama, they start letting go of the the need to be center stage, stirring the pot and getting everyone around them wound up.  But it requires a process of compounded skill building, education, homework and practice,  and re-wiring their brains in order to shift from the “Poor Me” narrative to the “Serene Me” experience.

When someone says, “Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink!”   they are stuck in Victim Consciousness and do not see how many choices and options they have.   Slowly, slowly, with DBT training, rehab treatment, or 12 Step processes they start to see how many other options they have besides using their addiction to cope.

We live in a time where treatment for addiction and mood disorder is available, and the only way to do recovery wrong is to not do it at all.  So if you or a loved one are struggling with something along the addiction spectrum, trust that there is a solution for you.  As the Dalai Lama says, “Never Give Up!”

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2018. All rights reserved.

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Up Next: New DBT Skills Groups on Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness in Westford, MA

#MirthMaven |

In the wake of the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, people are now becoming more acutely aware than ever of how vulnerable we all are to thoughts of self harm.  Knowing that all the success, cash and prizes, fame and celebrity connections do not make a person happy can be mind bending for many people.

In my guild, we deal with self harm and suicidal ideation regularly and know how catastrophic it can be for families and loved ones to process and cope with a loved ones’ tendency to self harm.  Plus, we each have our own dark thoughts and need to learn to be able to observe, defrost and release those negative thoughts in order to function here at Earth School.

No one is exempt from this learning curve!  This is why I am confident that ultimately DBT and Mindfulness will be taught in all elementary schools as part of the required educational curriculum.

To that end…besides my basic and ongoing daytime and evening Dialectical Behavior Skills Groups (DBT), I have been asked by several concerned parents of challenging and high risk adult children if I could form a monthly DBT support group for them.   I have also been asked by my amazing graduates of the one year basic DBT program if we could have an Advanced Group that also meets monthly…

To fulfill that request,  below are the upcoming groups that are forming to meet the personal growth needs of our community. (For learning DBT Skills from a remote location, or if you are compromised due to health issues, I also use video chat sessions  to share this work).

Daytime and Evening 14 Week DBT Skills Group on Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness: August 16, 2018 – November 15, 2018  Thursdays, 3:15 -4:45 PM or 7:30 – 9 PM.

Monthly DBT Skills and Support Group for Parents of High Risk and Challenging Children, the first Wednesday of the month, 7 – 8:30 PM.

Monthly DBT Skills for Advanced Students, the second Wednesday of the month. 7 – 8:30 PM.

Please note: enrollment is ongoing. (Sorry, no walk-ins, you must pre-register for all above groups.)

Let’s turn your defeats into victories, and your scars into stars…Yes, DBT can help you shift from being IMPOSSIBLE to I’M POSSIBLE!

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2018. All rights reserved.

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UP NEXT: DBT Skills Group on Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness, Westford, MA (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

I am excited to announce the next 14-week Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills (DBT) Group in Westford, MA will be starting a new evening trimester on Thursday, April 19, 2018, 7:30 – 9 PM.

We will be covering both the Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness modules.  (This is an ongoing group that has open enrollment periods three times per year. This group is non-binary/co-ed, ages 18+, tuition fee applies/non-insurance based.)

Four leaf DBT

The Emotion Regulation module has four sections:

  • Understanding and Naming Emotions
  • Changing Emotional Responses
  • Reducing Vulnerability to Emotion Mind
  • Managing Extremely Difficult Emotions

The Mindfulness material includes:

  • Learning to be a good observer
  • Being non-judgmental
  • Staying in the present
  • Practicing being effective
  • Accessing Wise Mind (aka higher self, higher consciousness)
  • Understanding Reality Acceptance and detaching from negative or critical thoughts.

TUITION:  $630 before 3/29/18.  $700 after 3/29/18.

As DBT founder Dr. Marsha Linehan says, “It is difficult to manage your emotions when you do not understand how emotions work. Knowledge is power.”

For exact dates,  location, DBT videos and more details, please visit www.lisawessan.com or call 978.710.8039.

Onward and Upward,
Lisa Wessan

DBT Mindfulness

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2018.  All rights reserved.

 

 

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Westford, MA: New DBT Skills Groups (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) start 10/26/17 and 12/14/17

dbt-skills

Good news! For those of you who have been waiting to get into one of our DBT Groups, there are several openings in our daytime DBT Skills Group starting October 26, 2017,  Thursdays from 3:15 – 4:45 PM at my office in the beautiful Westford Center for Counseling and Holistic Therapies, 234 Littleton Road, Suite 1D, Westford, MA.

This group is co-ed/non-binary, mature teens, trans and adults welcome, and is limited to 10 participants per group. One initial consultation  with me is required prior to joining the group, plus the completion of some DBT Skills registration forms. To get started, click HERE or call me at 978.710.8039.

For this next trimester, we will be studying Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance from the DBT Skills curriculum.

Why do I teach DBT Skills?

Over the years, I have seen outstanding evidence of how DBT helps to rewire our brains with gentle cognitive restructuring exercises, reduce inflammatory thoughts and untangle our irrational beliefs and interpretations — which cause so much pain and suffering — all in a relatively short time span.  DBT is Solution Focused Therapy at its best!

DBT includes powerful and easy relaxation techniques for anxiety; a large array of tools for depression and mood issues; and effective communication and boundary setting skills which make this a brilliant vehicle for interpersonal effectiveness, peak performance and personal growth.

Four leaf DBT

ANNUAL OVERVIEW

[This is a one year program divided into three 14-week trimesters. Students decide to renew their commitment towards the end of each trimester.]

Each trimester delves into Mindfulness plus one of the remaining three main modules of DBT, which are Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness (see diagram above). We repeat the Mindfulness module at the beginning of each semester to reinforce the powerful foundational skills it offers for general anxiety (Kabat-Zinn et al, 1992).

 

2017 – 2018 GENERAL CALENDAR

 [Dates are subject to change, due to snow days and other factors.]

UP NEXT: Daytime Group: October 26, 2017 – January 25, 2018. Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance.  Practical tools and skills are explored to process “crisis” emotions, impulse issues and more difficult feelings. We also cover Radical Acceptance, Turning Willfulness to Willingness, and moving from destructive self-harm to positive self-care (especially useful for the “Holiday Red Zone,” Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve!)

Evening Group: December 14, 2017 – March 29, 2018.  Mindfulness and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Through discussions, readings and interactive exercises you will be learning to set healthy boundaries, learning to say “YES” when you mean yes and “NO” when you mean no without worrying about getting others’ approval.  You will  learn how to become bulletproof to others invalidation of you, and learn to be a self-validating person.  The art of asking for what you want and negotiating well  is also explored. In addition, we study various forms of interpersonal protection, e.g. emotional safety skills, learning to identify  Energy Vampires (Orloff, 2004) and recover well from their hurtful and draining interactions.

Daytime and Evening Groups: April – July 2018.  Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation. Learning to identify your vast array of feelings, articulate them and express emotions appropriately is part of this powerful work. Also, learning to check the facts, edit misinterpretations and assumptions, and turn down the volume on your intense emotions yet still experience them. You will learn to regulate your emotions successfully, so that you have a more positive experience of feeling better and stronger.

TUITION

Each trimester is $700 for 14 weeks (watch for the Early Bird rate which usually expires two weeks before each trimester).

** It is a requirement of this group that participants are working with an individual therapist while they attend the group. The therapist does not need to be me, nor does the therapist need to be trained in DBT, but will be available for all processing outside the group. (Release forms will be sent to you and/or your therapist after the Initial Consultation with me).

I hope I can be of service to you, your clients or loved ones who would benefit from this group in the greater north Boston/Nashoba Valley area.

Learn more about the details of this DBT Skills Group by visiting my web site, www.lisawessan.com.  Also, please feel free to contact me for further information.

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

DBT Mindfulness

__________________________________________________________________________
References

Kabat-Zinn, J., Massion, A. O., Kristeller, J., Peterson, L. G., Fletcher, K. E., Pbert, L., et al. (1992). Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 936–943.

Orloff, Judith, MD. (2004). Positive Energy.   New York: Random House.  Chapter 9, The Ninth Prescription:  Protect Yourself from Energy Vampires.  288 – 318.

Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Wessan. All rights reserved.

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Decompressin’ with Wessan: Walk and Talk Therapy comes to Chelmsford, MA

LW WATT

Since I changed careers in 1999,  morphing from science journalist to therapist, I feel as if I have given birth to three clinical children in this journey…

First, I delivered Therapeutic Laughter for Caregivers (and others) in New York City, which emerged as keynotes, workshops and seminars.  I still enjoy presenting these programs which also include Team Building with Laughter, the Let Go and Lighten Up program and LaughAnanda (laughter meditation).  Each program serves a different sector, for corporate, medical/healthcare, educational, non-profit, and spiritual organizations.

Second, after a long gestational study period,  I delivered Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Groups (DBT) two years ago and currently facilitate two DBT groups in my office in Westford, MA, one daytime and evening group.

Third, and brand new as of June 2017, Walk and Talk Therapy (WATT) was born.  I am very excited about the progress and results my clients are experiencing during WATT.

Over the past several years, every time I read about exercising with clients, I was more intrigued…yes, there is solid science and empirically verified research on the benefits of WATT.

In brief, the motion of walking stimulates the bicameral brain and increases activity between the left and right hemispheres.  This allows people to access more complex feelings and memories, and have the ability to process the sadness, grief or trauma even more effectively while walking. While walking, everything is flowing, and the negative or heavily charged energy from the  traumatic memories can discharge quicker.  (I’m in the process of writing an article on a few of my clients who have had dramatic shifts and turnarounds on these walks.)

RISK MANAGEMENT

I have my clients sign an Indemnity Agreement prior to the WATT, and we discuss the possible challenges that may occur, such as tripping on a rock, or falling for some reason.  For some, this often leads to a lively discussion of their previous adventures and how confident they are in their walking ability.  “Walking around a lake? This is nothing, a piece of cake!”  they say.  For others, the prospect of walking for two miles is daunting, but they understand they can do as much or little of the walk as they want.  We have a choice of several benches for resting along the way with stunning views of the lake.

If you are considering WATT, I strongly recommend it.  As the Scottish-American naturalist John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2017.   All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New daytime DBT Skills Groups starts Thursday June 8, 2017 in Westford, MA. This group is co-ed/non-binary, mature teens and adults welcome…

We will be studying Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation from the DBT Skills curriculum. This class will be held on Thursdays, 3:15-4:45 PM,  in the beautiful Westford Center for Counseling and Holistic Therapies, in Westford, Massachusetts. (One initial consultation is required prior to joining the group, plus the completion of some DBT Skills registration forms.)

dbt-skills

Over the years, I have seen the strong evidence of how DBT helps to rewire our brains, and reduce the inflammatory cognitions and irrational beliefs and interpretations which cause so much pain and suffering. So I am passionate about teaching DBT Skills, and truly believe it should be offered to all adolescents.

DBT has powerful and easy relaxation techniques for anxiety; a large array of management tools for depression and mood issues; and brilliant communication and boundary setting skills which make this an amazing vehicle for interpersonal effectiveness, peak performance and personal growth.

Each 14 week course delves into Mindfulness and Dialectics plus one of the remaining three main modules of DBT, which are Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness. We repeat the Mindfulness module at the beginning of each semester to reinforce the powerful foundational skills it offers for general anxiety (Kabat-Zinn et al, 1992).

UP NEXT FOR 2017-2018
FALL – WINTER – SPRING – SUMMER OVERVIEW

Fall 2017- Winter 2018 trimester: Mindfulness, Dialectics and Distress Tolerance (especially useful for the “Holiday Red Zone,” which is fraught with unique challenges and conflicts, including severe Compare and Despair Syndrome).

Winter – Spring 2018 trimester: Mindfulness, Dialectics and Emotional Regulation. Learning to identify your vast array of feelings, articulate them and express appropriately is part of this powerful work. Also, learning to turn down the volume on your intense emotions yet still experience them is most empowering.

Summer – Fall 2018  trimester: Mindfulness, Dialectics and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Through discussions, readings and interactive exercises you will be learning to set healthy boundaries, learning to say “YES” when you mean yes and “NO” when you mean no without worrying about getting people’s approval.  You will  learn how to become bulletproof to others invalidation of you and as you become a self-validating person.  The art of asking for what you want and negotiating well to get it is also explored. In addition, we study various forms of interpersonal protection, safety and skills to identify your Energy Vampires (Orloff, 2004) and recover well from their hurtful interactions.

TUITION

Each trimester is $700 for 14 weeks.  (The Advanced Price for registering up to two weeks before we start the group is $670.)

** It is a requirement of this group that participants are working with an individual therapist while they attend the group. The therapist does not need to be me, nor does the therapist need to be trained in DBT, but will be available for all processing outside the group. (Release forms will be sent to you and/or your therapist after the Initial Consultation with me).

I hope I can be of service to you, your clients or loved ones who would benefit from this group in the greater north Boston area.

Learn more about the details of this DBT Skills Group by visiting my web site, www.lisawessan.com.  Also, please feel free to call or email me for further information.

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

________________________________________________________________________________________
References

Kabat-Zinn, J., Massion, A. O., Kristeller, J., Peterson, L. G., Fletcher, K. E., Pbert, L., et al. (1992). Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 936–943.

Orloff, Judith, MD. (2004). Positive Energy.   New York: Random House.  Chapter 9, The Ninth Prescription:  Protect Yourself from Energy Vampires.  288 – 318.

Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Wessan. All rights reserved.

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Moving towards wholeness with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills Group, Thursday evenings in Westford, MA

Grateful Plug:

I am pleased to announce the next 14-week Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills (DBT) Group in Westford, MA will be starting a new module on Thursday, April 6, 2017.  We will be covering both the Mindfulness  and Emotion Regulation modules.  (This is an ongoing group that has open enrollment periods three times per year.)  At this writing, there are two spots left for the next trimester.

The Mindfulness material includes:

  • Learning to be a good observer
  • Being non-judgmental
  • Staying in the present
  • Practicing non-multitasking
  • Accessing Wise Mind (aka higher self, higher consciousness or other spiritual beliefs, e.g. Christ Consciousness, HaShem, Atman)
  • Understanding Reality Acceptance and detaching from thoughts.DBT Mindfulness

The Emotion Regulation module has four sections:

  • Understanding and Naming Emotions
  • Changing Emotional Responses
  • Reducing Vulnerability to Emotion Mind
  • Managing Extremely Difficult Emotions

 

#MirthMaven |

As DBT founder Dr. Linehan says, “It is difficult to manage your emotions when you do not understand how emotions work. Knowledge is power.”

For dates, fees, location and more details, please visit www.lisawessan.com

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2017. All rights reserved.

 

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