Dialectical Behavior Therapy: What is it and how can it help me?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, often referred to as DBT, is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to teach people effective skills for living a more satisfying life. There are four main components of DBT. They are Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance and Emotion Regulation. All four modules emphasize how to handle painful experiences effectively and stay in control of one’s thoughts, emotions and behavior.

Mindfulness is the foundation of DBT and is woven into all of the modules. A mindfulness practice allows people to be aware of what is happening both within them and around them. An important component of this is curiosity and non-judgment. DBT teaches people to notice their internal and external experiences without attaching labels such as “good” or “bad.” Mindfulness allows individuals to just notice what is.

Interpersonal Effectiveness skills teach people how to reach desired outcomes in their relationships. There is a focus on behaving in such a way as to respect both self and others. Interpersonal Effectiveness training helps individuals answer three questions: what do I want, how to I want others to feel about me and how do I want to feel about myself?

Distress Tolerance skills are designed to help people survive emotional and interpersonal crises without making things worse. Self-care, self-soothing and resisting urges to behave impulsively are key components of this module. Moreover, a practice of radical acceptance is incorporated to help people accept what is and reduce the emotional suffering that accompanies resisting reality.

Finally, Emotion Regulation training assists individuals in creating a life worth living. Clarifying values, prioritizing goals and creating realistic plans for goal attainment are key features of this module. Furthermore, skills for checking the facts and remaining mindful and in control of one’s emotions in non-crisis situations are also provided.

DBT skills can be taught in individual or group therapy settings. If you are interested in joining a DBT group at PCS, please give us a call for more information. We look forward to helping you create a life worth living!

Spiritual in the Ordinary

Spirituality is often thought of as something special or mystical. This depends on one’s interpretations, beliefs and faith as well. However spirituality is also found in the ordinary.

A different view of Spirituality can be thought of as what the world or life is trying to teach us (depending on your orientation, world or life can be replaced with higher power or God). When someone takes a walk in a lush forest, it is rife with plants and animals whose ancestors adapted to survive. Their environment continuously pushed them to find the very best design to survive in that environment, and then to improve on that.

Life seems to continue to ask us these same questions. What is the best way to adapt to this environment? To adapt to this struggle or challenge? What is the best way to live? When we talk about spirituality, it can speak to the way we live our lives on the outside in the physical world, and for sure it speaks to how we live our lives on the inside. The inside meaning our head space, our mental hygiene, the habits around belief and our sense of or lack of having peace. So, what is the best way to live on the inside?

Perhaps it is to do the next right thing. This is a phrase borrowed from 12 step. It speaks to a consistent taking of inventory of ourselves, our condition and where we are in our lives. And, there are mental rewards for us doing the next right thing. These come about when one does what is right, even when doing the other option may be more lucrative, popular, socially sanctioned etc.

Through this practice one can approach having a sense of spirituality through ordinary acts.

It may also be, that part of what makes up this sense of spirituality is failing forward. This is idea that no one is perfect or does the right thing all the time, and that we can learn from mistakes. Part of being spiritual is being very familiar with the hard feelings of not having done the right thing. Or despite one’s best effort to do the right thing, to feel like one failed at it or failed to bring about the change desired by doing the right thing.

Important as well is that doing the right thing is always constrained by culture and social norms. The right thing is an ideal about how to live life. Much harm has been done in the name of God in the attempt (or sometimes as an excuse) to do the right thing. So in trying to do whats right, having a mandate to do no harm is important too.

If we wait for the clouds to part and the divine to come down to us, we may miss our opportunity to connect spirituality through the practice of making the right choices as to how to live and respond to challenge.


By Elijah Bedrosian, LPC

Weaving Together a Solid Recovery Foundation (3 of 3)


Weaving Together a Solid Recovery Foundation (3 of 3)


Step 3-“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God”

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” William James

“I am an addict!” No harder words are ever spoken than those uttered by one who attends h/her first 12 step meeting. Accepting the limitation of addiction and identifying secretive destructive behavior is agonizingly painful and full of discomfort in the beginning stage of recovery. It demands the rigorous honesty cultivated in Step 1. It calls for the humility of Step 2 to ask for help from a higher power.

Step 3 is a Catch 22 dilemma. Figuring it out can be like trying to nail jelly to a tree. This step in the recovery foundation bids for irony and metaphor. It leans into the concept of to win you must lose. Winning sobriety means to surrender all forms of dishonesty, minimization and displacement of responsibility. It means to be in control you must let go. Let go of control of what people think, secrets kept and serial addictive behaviors repeated. It means to totally surrender to a Higher Power in the midst of fear, uncertainty and ambiguity.

It reminds of the story of the tourist visiting the Grand Canyon while leaning over the railing to see the bottom of the canyon, lost his balance and fell-grabbing a lone branch sticking out of the side of the canyon, holding on for dear life. He looks down to a 300 foot drop and cries out “God help me!” to which he hears a deep voice that says “Ok, let go!” He waits a few seconds and then calls out “Is there anyone else up there!” Step 3 challenges the addict to release h/her grip and let go to the promise of program and Higher Power. It is not a one-time surrender but a daily release moment by moment. The requirement is to do what seems innately against addict nature-give up control in order gain peace and to resurrect control again.

In order to know God, Step 3 proposes that you embrace what you don’t know. Through Step 3 we work with and accept the uncertainties of life. We surrender to the reality that there are no absolute certainties, assurances in life and we abandon all demands for perfection. We embrace the spiritual paradox that “when I am weak then am I strong.”

We are challenged to detach from things and possessions. Attachment to positions, power and places has become a problem that stunts spirituality because at some point they own us. Adding to your collection and hoard of things crowds out the spiritual.

Rather, we embrace our failures and our success, our dark side as well as our light and we gain autonomy by not insisting on our own rights. We learn to pay attention to what we hold on to and soberly accept what has happened. Somehow we allow our Higher Power to transform the Catch 22 of addiction from lose-lose to win-win profoundly letting go and accepting what we cannot control.

Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet.  He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year. He can be reached at pcs@pcsintensive.com for additional information.

Weaving Together a Solid Recovery Foundation (1 of 3)


Weaving Together a Solid Recovery Foundation (1 of 3)


“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story”—Maya Angelou

Recovery in addiction is likened to getting an out of control train running down the tracked stopped. Getting addictive living re-calibrated and re-establishing life balance is a delicate and difficult task. The 12 step program has been invaluable to those who suffer from powerlessness and unmanagability. Courageously telling the story of out of control living is both a beginning and ending point. Our stories are the most powerful source for healing in our lives. T.S. Eliot said it well,

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time-

Admitting our unmanageability and cultivating a pattern of “telling on myself” is a necessary ingredient for a strong recovery foundation. Our story is not static as in “once said and done”. Rather, we knead through our story as a baker would knead through dough in the making of bread. We work the different aspects of story by incorporating its insights and truths into congruent living which is an ongoing lifetime process. In the midst of failure of control, addictive thinking frequently will lower the expectation of sobriety in order to diminish the standards so that they can create an illusory sense of perfection. “Finally, I am sober!” “Finally, I measure up!” Rather, than embrace the possibility of finding meaningfulness in the failure. We find ourselves unraveling with a driven all or nothing mindset. We cannot stand the pace that striving to be perfect imposes.  It is indeed in the process of failing and getting up again that spirituality is essential.

Step one augments that we fail forward. In a very paradoxical way our very brokenness allows us to become whole. Our embrace of this process is paralyzed with dishonesty and denial about our crazy mixed up behavior.

It is very difficult to see our own crazy making ways. We cannot see ourselves without a mirror. Twelve step groups have way of expressing it when they refer “You cannot kiss your own ear”. This challenge brings us back to our story. Stories are the mirror for you and others to see self and uncover behavioral blind spots. This is what makes storytelling and group processing so powerful.

For an addict there is no life balance. It is only pedal to the metal chaos. Step one asks us to embrace our powerless unmanageability.  It is the beginning of weaving a life tapestry by boldly exposing the ups and downs, the bitter and sweet, the failure and success, the out of control heartache with courage and vulnerability. Relief from the agony of the untold story is waiting for all who embrace their pain.

Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet.  He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year. He can be reached at pcs@pcsintensive.com for additional information.

Weaving Together a Recovery Foundation (2 of 3)


Weaving Together a Recovery Foundation (2 of 3)


Step 2- “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

“There is a crack in everything that is made-and not the least of all- in each of us”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In truth, when it comes to recovery, spirituality is never quite what you expect. At the end of the day, spirituality influences the way we open up to life’s experiences. It helps to work through the dishonesty and denial of unmanagability in step 1 by leading to accept imperfection as imperfection. It transforms the ordinary and yet in a strange way is found in the common place of life. The least likely spaces and faces are utilized to reveal truth that comes from the spiritual in life.

When we deny our individual imperfection with defensiveness and minimization, we disown our spiritual nature which is rooted in common shared brokenness. Minus embracing humanity’s broken condition, we become stuck in destructive behavior without compassion.

Yet, when I embrace my own weakness, I am invited to cultivate compassion toward myself and others. This is the essential root of healing in relationships. Pema Chodron stated “compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.  Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

In developing compassion for my own weakness, I develop compassion for the weakness of others. Spirituality is a journey of becoming one with every sinner. So the victim of destructive addictive behavior is one with the perpetrator because we are all one in common shared weakness. Essentially we all offend and that common thread creates spirituality.

In this sense, spirituality becomes a necessary ingredient for accountability. If we all offend, not just the addict, then it stands to reason that holding each other accountable is necessary to create safety in community. It becomes the glue that holds the parts of recovery together.

Spirituality is found in the wound of human failure. Entangled in the powerful shackle of shame that wraps itself around the spirit like an infectious worm. Defeat and desolation from addictive act become compost for cultivating humility, a cardinal component of spirituality. It is by fertilizing Step 2 and nourishing spirit that later in Step 9, we make amends from the compassion for others spawned from Step 2. Spirituality is the ingredient that forms an antibiotic to conceit and arrogance. It combats self-sufficiency, self-centeredness and the pride that denies need which is the root of all our struggles. In a strange turn of events, the Step 2 process takes the broken condition of addiction and connects it to every other human tribulation. We are all one. Through this epiphany, we look to a Power greater to address the limiting crack common to us all.

Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet. He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year.  He can be reached at pcs@pcsintensive.com for additional information.


Spirituality: Sobriety’s Peaceful Paradox


Spirituality: Sobriety’s Peaceful Paradox


Addiction is an invite to become spiritual. In the midst of chaos, denial and deception, there is this beckoning toward truth. The word spiritual is a conundrum. It is a paradox- an “unsettling contradiction”. Some describe spirituality as “trying to nail jelly to a tree”. Others suggest that it is about vulnerability. It can feel like being emotionally naked in front of another. It is about a certain kind of brokenness. Its truth can have a certain coldness and rawness to it. It can be bittersweet. Often, it is presented as sweet peace wrapped in discomfort, even in the presence of being exposed.

Ernst Kurtz, in the Spirituality of Imperfection, indicates that to be spiritual is not about religion and not about therapy. If not, then what the heck is it? He cites that it comes from the “wound” in life. Spirituality comes from our “torn-to-pieces-hood”. It’s in the pus of human failure and repeated destructive behavior. It can be likened to stretching out a tender and sore muscle that begs you to leave it alone. That which we would least like to embrace is the place we are invited to stand. Spirituality demands that I lean into the painful wound. Carl Jung is credited with “the only way out is through the pain”. It’s a contradiction that brings me/you to life as “being” and less about “doing”.

Addiction is painful. It hurts me and others in a profound way. It leaves human carnage in its path. Yet, in the presence of shattered living, spirituality utilizes the pain of addiction as a catalyst to bring us closer to what is real no matter how hard I try to deny it. It demands that I lean into the pain in order to heal. It means I have to scrub the wound. It all sounds so contradictory. I want to do the opposite. Yet, spirituality demands that I embrace the pain of betrayal, the agony of disclosure and the annoyance and inconvenience of consequences. This can include but not limited to incarceration, losses of all types, and the painful tedium of ongoing assessments. It demands the engagement of mistrust of others toward you because of your destructive behavior. It requires that I surrender to the reality that each day I am a beginner in spirit lest I settle into resentment, bitterness and defensiveness toward those who don’t trust me.

Spirituality silently and irrepressibly tells us that we are not in control. Its message can be sweet but only if we embrace what feels bitter.

To myself I will say … “Nah, Nah,Nah”— “I want something better”- “enough is enough!” “I will ignore surrender and force my way to a better place!”- From this space, spirituality takes on a different face. It can even bite back or so it seems. It is not a separate entity trying to break individual stubbornness. Rather, it is the other side of who we are that confronts the resistance and refusal to recognize the limitations of the wounded-ness that comes with addiction.

Spirituality is not about having the answer. It is not fenced in by words. It’s about “am-ness”. Kurtz expressed “it is about a way that we “be”. It’s about emptying (kenosis) from all that we do to embrace simply what we may be. It stirs groundlessness and ongoing uncertainty. It is reality whether we choose isolation and destruction or positive life giving experience. To use a worn out phrase, “it is what it is”.

Metaphors, images and stories become the language of spiritual awareness. For this reason, nothing is more powerful in healing than the story of human brokenness. As the poet T.S. Eliot described “we shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. We share our stories of brokenness again and again so that spiritually we shall know the place for the first time.

Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet. He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year. He can be reached at pcs@pcsintensive.com for additional information.

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