Submission feels good, m’kay?

Hah! Got you there. You thought it was a BDSM site. Nah, I’m not into that kind of submission. Ew. Each to their own. Aaaanyhoo.

I submitted my Post Doc application today. The first of many, probably. But I got it signed off by my Research Centre Director, so that’s just the first step of joy in a long, long, long process that will probably be ultimately unsuccessful. And it’s the first independent study I’ve had an idea about since I had the aha moment to begin the PhD.

Why would I want to do any more study, my mother asks. Well, mum, I say, vaguely annoyed that she thinks that research is about studying when clearly to her I’ve been a “doing” person all my life (singing, teaching, NOT studying or writing down stuff or learning stuff). Um. Because I like learning about stuff, mum? And it’s an interesting job?

Now get this. My sister (Australian Indigenous Rights lawyer) has been “studying” her whole adult life, because most of her work is doing stuff like looking up stuff and writing down stuff and that sort of thing, reports and such. She is also undertaking PhD studies (submitting hers 7 months after I submitted mine), and she just got a great new job at uni. Blessed mum has not said anything remotely like this about my sister’s new job at the university, which is also about research and teaching. And studying.

SIGH. Apparently being a teacher and singer means I don’t write down a thing. Um. Yes I do. It’s kind of amusing to wonder what my mum and dad think my job actually is. I co-edited a book with DH about teaching singing. My name was on the cover. I sent a photo of me holding my book pointing to my name. On the cover. My mum and dad thought my DH had written the book ON HIS OWN. Even though my NAME WAS ON THE COVER.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my mum and dad to bits, they are awesome, generous, kind, thoughtful, lovely people. They are sending me and the fam to France to spend 2 weeks together in a CHATEAU. They paid for the plane tickets. They lent me a lot of money to buy our house. They are AWESOME. But moments like that give me pause. I mean, c’mon! My NAME WAS ON THE COVER.

Anyway. Life is pretty good, actually, proofs have come for my journal article which I have to complete by this week because Spain, and my students all seem to think I’m ok. Which is good, I guess.

But I want that Post Doc. I really, really do.

Gigs! I got gigs! And happy/sad today.

Well, just as my life takes a turgid turn for the boring, a great thing happens: I start getting gigs! Not very frequent at the moment, but they are good for me as they pay for stuff and I get to have fun on stage with a bunch of great folk. This is important for a singing teacher, that my own performing legitimises my teaching practice. My gigs are seminars about happiness – I’m blessed to have some lovely people who think I can actually sing and perform, who have asked me to do this stuff with them.

And for the first-ever time I went to the physio today because I have a super sore shoulder muscle. Its from doing lots of piano playing and computer sitting – I’m doing some crap things to my alignment that affect my neck, which then affects my back – mostly sitting down for too long and for too many years while teaching singing. I’ve been strapped up to make me keep squeezing my shoulder blades together. I’m tired already. I really hate chronic pain, and my back injury is in no way a spinal or bone-based condition, it’s muscular and can totally be fixed through exercise. Meaning I have to go to the gym and work out a truck load so that I don’t feel all muscle-achy. I want a massage. Oh, the pleasures of ageing. Not.

On the dark side, my DH’s mother has taken a turn for the worse. She’s 87 and in frail health – has been for years. On Saturday night she had a fall (as you do at 87), and then a stroke. It’s relatively minor, but at 87 even a minor stroke can mean catastrophic events. We’re waiting with bated breath to find out the outcome. Meanwhile I’m in all kinds of grief because a stroke was what finally took my beloved Granny Moose at age 89. I know the outcomes of these things. I’m hoping my MIL recovers well enough to make it to Christmas but there are no guarantees. And I grieve for her husband, who has lovingly looked after his wife for more than forty years of ill health. He was distressed and sad and even though at age 87 he knows the end is inevitable, the shock of the stroke has surprised even him. I’m particularly fond of my FIL, and I worry for his health and happiness as his wife slowly declines.

So happy/sad today. But at least I’m writing my Post Doc properly now.

Things we think might be a little bit b*llsh*t

There are mutterings afoot here in Australia regarding the future of the Yarts. It’s pretty terrifying to the Australian performing artist. The first is the decimation of the Australia Council by the Senator George Brandis, who instead of creating his own little arts fiefdom with his own pocket money has decided to take it (the money) away from the AC instead – disabling the capacity of the AC to run its programs for independent artists, and schools programs, and development of shows and the list goes on. So angry I could spit.

The second is the proposed changes to one of our university’s classical voice program. InDaily’s reporter Suzie Keen reported the following on 13 May:

Adelaide University provided a statement saying it “has no intention of closing classical voice studies in the Elder Conservatorium of Music, and these rumours have no basis in fact”.

A university spokesperson said proposals for changes to the way the Conservatorium music courses are taught were still under consultation with staff, but that the bachelor of music (classical performance), including the classical voice major, would continue to be offered.

“It is proposed that some of the modes of teaching may be changed to give students exposure to national and international expertise and greater opportunities.” 

A media release issued last week by Adelaide University stated that changes to the music curriculum were planned to strengthen ties with the music industry and help students apply their skills to multiple career opportunities across different industries.

“Our new teaching and learning model will include greater crossover of skills in areas such as popular music, classical, jazz, performance, teaching, media and multimedia,” Professor Jennie Shaw, executive dean of the university’s Faculty of Arts, said in the release.

“As a result, the music curriculum will become as flexible and diverse as possible, representing the interests of students across a wide range of genres.

“Rather than being known for one specialisation such as voice, composition or violin, they will receive a portfolio of skills that are relevant to the challenges and opportunities in the industry in the 21st century.”

Right. So, what this means, in effect, is that students will be unable to specialise under the new model. Singing teachers will be “let go” and students will not be given the opportunity to develop elite skills or expertise in their chosen domain. Now, some (university heads) would argue that this is the way of the future for musicians. That in fact musicians need to show flexibility in their career and have a variety of skills in music that transcends expertise on one instrument.

That’s actually pretty true. Most musicians DO need to be flexible. They DO need a variety of skills and they DO need to prepare for a “Portfolio career” in the Yarts. All music institutions are painfully aware of this need, because we all know that carving out a living-wage performing career is difficult. Most performers are able to maintain performing careers over a range of musical styles; they perform, they teach, they create entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves through writing for Cabaret, Musical Theatre and the like. They collaborate and network with arts councils (sic) and write grant applications and play in bands and, well, they find ways to survive. Many universities and music institutions now offer courses that discuss how to make it as a portfolio musician, and most Bachelor music courses seem to offer electives that will expand the student experience across domains. In just one example, back in the deep dark 90s I arrived at Melbourne Uni just as they changed aspects of the BMus. They opened up about 30-40 credit points to study courses outside the faculty. I jumped at the chance and did some English and Drama courses. Useful and fun. Now, of course, I’d study introduction to Psychology and probably some creative writing courses, and perhaps a business module or two. However, back then it was hard to find out anything about the Arts courses so I just took what looked most like the career I was then trying to build.

However. And you knew there was always going to be a however. Without high levels of expertise in at least one instrument all you are going to get are bad musicians without the level of skill required to do anything more than busk. And that’s the sorry truth. So, really, what Adelaide Uni are saying is “we don’t want to support the expensive one-to-one teaching approach characteristic of most conservatoires and which has a track record of success over the last – say – 800 years (I’m lumping in Apprenticeships and European guilds in that model for all their strengths and weaknesses), so we’re pretending that a breadth degree will be just as good, and that students will somehow through an amazing osmosis-like development get the expert training they need.” Badow.

It will not happen. What you will get will be poorly trained musicians with poor skills across a range of instruments. Classical singers will not have language or stage craft skills, therefore will be unable to compete in the market IN ANY WAY. Here’s a thought. Without any – ANY – empirical evidence that what Adelaide Uni is doing will be beneficial for classical singers, I offer some anecdotes of my own as evidence to the contrary.

Kate Miller-Heidke. She is one of Australia’s leading women performers, with a successful career spanning more than 10 years (she’s only 30ish). Can sing opera really really well, but is also an award winning song writer and performer across a range of genres. She trained at Qld Con in classical voice. Huh. Here’s the thing. When she graduated, she chose not to sing opera. She chose to pursue a highly successful career in pop. She has written a truckload of albums, won a truckload of awards, was the world’s best song-writer one year, and has appeared on TV innumerable times singing everything from a totally crazy rendition of Psycho Killer to her own amazing work. And then something happened. Now she is singing Opera again. At the Met, no less. She would not have had this amazing career without the thorough training she received from one of our finest Conservatoires. One-to-one classical voice lessons set her up to be expert in that field, WHICH THEN TRANSLATED TO EVERYTHING SHE SUBSEQUENTLY DID.

Training for expertise in one thing does not automatically mean you are going to be bad at everything else. What it means, more likely, is that you are going to have the know how to develop expertise across a raft of skills WHEN AND IF THEY ARE REQUIRED. Well, ok, I was never going to be any good at Maths, but my own training in Classical voice enabled me to apply the LEVEL of skill required to master just about anything else I needed in my career, including teaching, singing pop and jazz, and writing. The discipline I developed in my vocal training has held me in great stead for my PhD studies (that old thing about excellence etc). Developing elite skills in one thing just means that I’m elite at that one thing, not that I’m unable to be good at anything else.

I totally get that musicians need to be flexible and have a range of skills across a range of domains. We are already doing this, people. Let’s look at Babushka Cabaret, another anecdotal example. I saw them just recently and was blown away by this Brisbane-based group’s skill, flexibility and talent. The women performing all trained as classical voice specialists. Here is a bio of this fabulous group, which I found on Pozible http://www.pozible.com/project/4771;

About Babushka

Babushka was born in 2011 when four of Brisbane’s most vivacious and dangerously different divas bonded over a shared case of Soprano Identity Crisis Syndrome at the Queensland Conservatorium. Premiering their wares as a cabaret four-piece at Queensland’s own Woodford Folk Festival, these quirky young sopranos created the collective to indulge their love of operatic prima donnas (mostly themselves) and cabaret femme fatales. Pushing the boundaries of traditional opera through their unique crossover arrangements, mash-ups and musical sketches, the girls have won the hearts of classical music buffs and indie music nerds alike. Their repertoire explores the spectrum of theatrical music from full-blown operatic arias, cabaret tearjerkers and pop gems set to luscious 4-part harmony. 
As individuals, the girls have performed with Opera Queensland, OzOpera, Alpha Crucis Ensemble (The Southern Cross Soloists II), The Sounding Out Collective, Oscar Theatre Company, The Qld Conservatorium Opera Department, ChiChi Delux, The National Youth Choir of Australia and more.

The prevailing societal culture of pop and rock means that these women already know that stuff. They hear it every day. They probably sing it in the shower. But their training in elite opera styles enabled this group to develop an extremely high level of skill in their cabaret endeavour. Their conservatoire training, which included everything from stage craft to languages to vocal pedagogy to music theory, was in-depth. Breadth was a by-product of their own desire to break out of the mold. So their amazing vocal arrangements of pop tunes and classical standards, set within a cabaret formula, was borne of their elite training.

Do I have to give more examples of successful “cross-over” artists in the absence of ANY research that indicates what Adelaide Uni is doing there will have a POSITIVE effect on Australian artists? There is no evidence that this is a great move by Adelaide. Call it out for what it is: lack of money to support this conservatoire and its attempts to maintain excellence in a time of increasing austerity about the Yarts. Don’t attempt to placate us with nonsense about breadth and crossover skill. And there it is, folks. Things we think might be a little bit bullshit.

Impending doom was a resounding success.

Ok, ok, I’m fine. It’s just that my noony noony moment turned into a “you’re going to procrastinate today” moment which did indeed last all day. Went to bed having achieved nothing all day except a gym visit, blog post and dinner preparations. I have so much to do they all seemed to get crowded in the doorway and not one thing got through. So of course I then hated myself a little bit. A lot. Normally when I procrastinate I do other useful but boring things like filing, but I didn’t even manage that on Monday. 

I wondered why I did this and I think it’s probably a teensy weensy bit of self sabotage. You know, the thing where you think you might fail and so you don’t give it 100%? Just in case you DO fail and then you can say “oh, I didn’t really try hard on that thing, so it was always going to be crap”. That thing. It’s the perfectionist in me, partly, but also the bit in me that worries I might not be good enough at the thing. I’ve got lots on, and all of the things require a high level of expertise, skill or whatever. I just get the yips. 

Anyway. So I procrastinate, feeling miserable. Then I get the lovely letters from my collaborators and referees and whatever and feel more miserable because I haven’t done the work I’d promised them. Sigh. You see the cycle here. It’s like I’m determined to feel shite. And then I have to do a gig. Now, I don’t have to do the gig. I could stand back and say nah, I’m done performing. But part of me is flattered that I’ve been asked, another part of me thinks I need to perform as it legitimises my musician persona for my students and the last part of me loves the premise of the gig. 

So naturally I don’t do much prep for the gig either. In my old performing days I rarely bothered to remember the words (bad bad me) and I didn’t give much emotional energy either. This gig demanded emotional energy AND memory work. As a teacher I demand and expect my students to memorise songs. I demand and expect and emotional singing energy. Yet I don’t apply the same demands to my own performances. 

So I spend most of Monday through Wednesday morning with minor anxiety about memorising the words. Note: I don’t bother to do the work for this. I just worry about it. Sleep poorly both nights, finally get up Wednesday morning to print out the words in a vain hope that by doing this I’ll somehow feel better about my lack of preparation. I feel better. Go to gig. Along with one of my colleagues we both have a minor panic about said new song which has about 3 words in it. Practice it badly. Then, in the middle of Wednesday afternoon, we finally get onto stage and voila, my anxiety completely melts away. Jeez. I forget I’m a professional sometimes. I’m GOOD at this stuff. Being on stage is an easy thing for me. 

The gig went off without a hitch. The new song with the 3 words was incredible, my singing partner and I totally emotionally invested in the beautiful song “Say Something”. Our audience laughed, danced, and cried. Lots of crying. And I remembered why I do this stuff. 

And I realised why Monday was a crap wasteful day. Sometimes anxiety is nothing more than a feeling of malaise. Out of focus and vague, no concrete thoughts or anything, just a feeling of … waiting. Watchfulness. The amygdala hijack of fight or flight. My adrenaline was up due to the gig so I was in readiness mode, which stops me from being able to work or think in a deep and meaningful way. So now it’s over, the gig is done. Time to forgive myself and move on. I have a Post Doc to write. 

Noony noony noo…

No news is good news, right?

Typewriter-ClearNoony noony noony noo.

I’m the Sesame St typewriter this month. That’s how I’m feeling right now. I’m about to finish organising my book proposal and Post Doc applications but otherwise life is just noodling along, pretty calm and relaxed. My referees are coming along nicely, my book proposal is nearly done, my Post Doc is pretty shite right now and I need to get my referee love sorted BEFORE  June, but mostly I’m feeling cool.

I’ve recently seen more pro-am theatre than I ever want to see again, but I don’t mind. As my mum says, “I’m notching up those karma points for my old age”. And most of it has had some very good points. At least at no time was I really bored. That’s important.

My daughter is OK (which is as good as it gets), my DH is a bit ill with a persistent cold because he needs a long holiday, and the house plans are on the final stretch to costings and council approval. The animals are in fine health, I polished the furniture yesterday and the laundry is done (not by me).

My teaching is going fine (as far as I can tell, I’m over it slightly so the care factor is rather low), and I’m performing again, adding valuable dollars to our school fee account. The house sitters are organised, the bills are paid, Netflix and Stan are getting a good work out, I’m going to the gym and calorie counting again (minus the calories for Pinot Noir, because I need it), I’m cooking, we’re eating out a lot, I’m seeing heaps of great theatre and shows, seeing friends, I’m organising our wardrobe and pantry with some new coat hangers, storage jars and a shoe stand (which is a GREAT thing to have). Exciting overseas holiday plans are coming along well – Spain and France this year. And that’s it.

Noony noony noony noo.

Why then do I have a niggling feeling of impending doom?

charlie-brown

 

A break in the weather

Brisbane is characterised by hot, humid weather most of the year. I hate this type of weather. Which is why, in May, I’m suddenly feeling very cheerful again. The weather is COLD. Days are quite warm – think an Irish summer (apparently), but the nights are fabulously chilly. I am now, at 4.20pm, wearing my UGG boots and feeling delightfully not warm. I don’t know anyone else who feels quite the way I do about the cold. My mother recently explained to me that she used to keep windows open during Winter because she had read somewhere that it was good for children. I must say it saved time getting into the house when I didn’t have a house key.

However, as an adult I have difficulty now spending time in environments where there is no wind. Dammit. Most houses in Winter are hermetically sealed from the cold. In those environments, hot and dry and still, I feel terribly uncomfortable, as if someone has left the electric blanket on and I can’t breathe.

Luckily our house – about which I have been complaining vociferously for several years now – is a veritable gale of open windows, gaping window frames and not-quite-sealed doors. No chance of me not being cold in the house. People, I LIKE wearing jumpers. I LIKE rugging up against the cold INSIDE the house. I feel more connected to the environment I guess, but really it’s because I like the chilblains I used to get as a child. Ah, the delicious agony of warm bath water on cold, cold feet and hands. Nothing quite like it.

The job hunt begins in earnest!

I am well aware of the futility of that statement. As a woman in her mid-forties, walking into a new job in any field is near impossible. I mentioned it to hubby today because I realised I will need to earn an income over the summer months: that’s November, December, January and February.

I will be without an income during that time (and possibly longer because who knows whether I get to keep my current contract into 2016?!). Now DH earns nearly enough to support us both, but given our current expenditure and his ongoing child support payments and school fees, his nett income is not enough to carry us through. So I need to work. Besides, I get bored, grumpy and too hot if I have to stay at home in summer.

I am currently preparing some fellowship and Post Doc applications. I am not expecting to succeed in my first few attempts so I will have to prepare myself to fail this year. So that leaves me with a very uncertain future in 2016.

On the plus side, here is a photo of my bound thesis (name hidden for privacy reasons): huzzah!

 

Thesis

I’m a little bit proud of this one.

So I’m preparing a book proposal based on my thesis. I have to prepare a book chapter, which will probably be harder than writing the actual thesis itself, if for no other reason than I have to humanise it. I can write quite well but rewriting for a semi-lay audience is a little more difficult. And I have to prove it’s worth publishing, too!

So 2015. The year of grant writing, book proposals, Fellowship and Post Doc applications. Fun.

 

Determined to get fit!!!!

This post is for all the diet and health nuts out there. I am a very lazy person. I’m sure I’m not the world’s laziest person – that would be hyperbolic and smack of hubris. So for me to get back on the diet and fitness wagon is an effort.

I’m also not a runner – in the hot, humid Brisbane heat I can’t actually run because I get very lightheaded and puffy and look like I’m going to pass out. Heat will do that to people with low blood-pressure. And I’m an ex-smoker. I don’t think my lungs have ever really recovered. I would love to run. It looks self-sufficient, but I hate getting hot, sweaty and panicky. And I really can’t be bothered with the treadmill – I only go on one to get my muscles warm.

So I must find other ways to exercise. I like to swim. I like to lift free weights. I really like yoga. So last week I got back on the wagon, back on the horse, back on the treadmill.

Mondays and Fridays I see a personal trainer (at the moment until I can’t afford it any more), and because on these days I don’t work all day, I can stay there for more punishment. Last Monday I stayed for a Tabata class. Nearly killed me. Tabata is a regime whereby you do a body weight exercise for 20 seconds, have a 10 second rest, then repeat. 7 more times. Then you have a minute’s break and start the next exercise. Exercises can include Burpees, push ups, crunches, hi knees, lunges, squats and other things. You do this for an hour. When I’m fit it’s not too bad. When I’m out of condition, oh boy. Oh, boy oh boy.

Word of warning, if you do 3 x 120kg leg presses followed by weighted squats and lunges with your PT plus other fun stuff, then try and do a Tabata class, make sure you eat breakfast and be prepared to NOT SLEEP for THREE NIGHTS because when you turn over your body is in such pain it WAKES YOU UP.

On the plus side, I got to my next class on Friday and while I was in no condition to push myself too hard, I stayed and did some more weights, treadmill, seated rowing and stairs. It felt good to work my poor aching quads and glutes. OMG.

Food-wise I’m not faring too badly although I’m still a little generous with the carbs and potatoes. As I keep the diet up I’ll reduce my bread, pasta, rice and potato consumption and up my leafy green vegies and quinoa. Anyone who knows me knows I rarely eat junk food – can’t actually eat Micky D’s because the food doesn’t actually taste like food. Same for KFC and other fast food outlets. And I cut out milk from my coffee (except when substituting it for breakfast) and tea long ago. I hardly ever drink soft drink or juice – I actually prefer the taste of sparkling mineral water. My great weakness is sweet things, and/or hot chips. Once I get rid of the desire to eat these things I’ll do a lot better. But NEVER ask me to forgo my Pinot Noir. Even hubby knows not to ask now.

I’m back on MyFitnessPal and my calorie intake is hovering around the 1700 mark – this needs to drop by 200 calories for me to lose weight easily. Problem is, the weight goes straight back on if I ease up on the exercise. I’m not an exercise junkie so I can’t maintain my habits very well. SIGH. But I’m determined to get fit and healthy again – need it to maintain my ageing body!

Where we find a diagnosis for my daughter’s mental health condition: BPD.

*Trigger warning: discussion of suicide attempts.

This week has been a bit of a doozy. My trans daughter tried to kill herself again. This is the second deliberate attempt. I won’t mention the times she drowned, got run over by a car, spent days in hospital with chronic asthma attacks and broke her arm so many times in 18 months that she was awarded a prize by her school for the most accident prone child. No, those things occurred prior to deliberate thought.

After several weeks of not hearing from her, because mum horrible, I get a panicked phone call late at night from one of her partners (she calls them this – I think they’re hug-buddies more than anything), who tells me said daughter is threatening on FB to kill herself.

DH and I dash about the suburb where she was last seen not one hour prior, driving up and down darkened streets, hoping that my poorly dressed, barefooted adult child will be sitting at a bus stop without anywhere to go – she doesn’t drive. Finally, after not seeing her anywhere we call the police, report her vitals and go home to wait. Soon after the police arrive at our house and inform us she has been found, she is alive and well and being taken to hospital as we speak. Wonderful police. Discreet and empathetic. Thanks to Queensland Police for their great work. Well. DH and I dash to the hospital only to find she has not yet been admitted and so we hang about for a couple of hours until we are informed that yes, she is here, and no, she won’t speak to us. We go home and get some sleep, relieved by the knowledge that she is safe.

The following day she texts me. She wants to come home. But she cannot until she has been assessed by the mental health unit and admitted to a ward. So she stays there, unhappy but fed and watered and safe, until I go to pick her up the following afternoon.

We hug. While all is not forgiven, and there are things to talk about, but she is at least talking to me. We hug lots more and then I find out she has a condition called BPD – Borderline personality disorder. I looked the condition up on http://www.sane.org. You can find more information here. This condition is characterised by the following, which I have reproduced:

People with BPD have persistent difficulty relating to other people and to the world around them. This can be very distressing for the person and for those who care for them.

Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

Deep feelings of insecurity
Difficulty coping with fear of abandonment and loss; continually seeking reassurance, even for small things; expressing inappropriate anger towards others whom they consider responsible for how they feel; a fragile sense of self and one’s place in the world.

Impulsiveness
This impulsiveness is a response to feeling emotionally overwhelmed, and may include self-harm (for example, cutting, burning, or abuse of alcohol or drugs) or attempts at suicide. Self-harm may bring short-term relief from emotional distress, but can have a longer-term negative impact on the person.

Confused, contradictory feelings
Frequent questioning and changing of emotions or attitudes towards others, and towards aspects of life such as goals, career, living arrangements or sexual orientation.

Some people with BPD may also have symptoms of other mental illnessses. They may experience symptoms associated with anxiety or mood disorders, such as excessive worrying and having panic attacks, obsessive behaviour, hoarding or having unwanted thoughts, feeling persistently sad, moving or talking slowly, losing sexual interest or having difficulty concentrating on simple tasks. They may even experience psychotic symptoms such as delusions or false beliefs – believing, for example, they are being deceived, spied on or plotted against.

Do you know, about 2-5% of the population have symptoms of BPD at some stage in their lives? It’s a common condition, I suspect most usually experienced in late adolescence. Well, luckily it’s treatable, if not curable. We’ll begin a treatment plan for her next week some time, which involves something called DBT – Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. An offshoot of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it combines group and individual treatments. I’ve reproduced the information below from an Australian website.

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a form of psychological therapy which was developed for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), particularly those individuals with self harm and/or suicidal urges. DBT has been shown by research to be an effective psychological treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. While the treatment of BPD remains probably the most common use of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, the DBT treatment approach is increasingly being applied to a range of other psychological disorders and problems, particularly disorders that include issues of emotional dysregulation such as bulimia.

Dialectical Behaviour therapy was developed by psychologist Dr Marsha Linehan (1993). DBT developed out of the recognition that traditional Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) techniques, while of some assistance for symptoms of BPD, seemed to have limited impact on the core problems in BPD.

Dialectical Behaviour therapy combines traditional CBT with techniques such as mindfulness and acceptance, which are often associated with newer or “third wave” behavioural strategies. These extra techniques focus particularly on teaching people with DBT emotion regulation skills to assist them in dealing with the sometimes overwhelmingly intense negative emotions which occur periodically in BPD and hinder sufferers from being able to progress in therapy.

By acquiring effective DBT emotion regulation skills, BPD sufferers frequently feel empowered able to be able to tackle the wide range of other issues in their lives which otherwise hem them in and frequently prevent them from reaching their full potential.

As well as the inclusion of some novel therapy techniques, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy differs from traditional CBT in the typical time frame for therapy. CBT is generally considered ‘brief therapy’ because clients are typically seen for somewhere between 6 and 20 visits (although there is obviously substantial variation. By contrast, because Borderline Personality Disorder is a chronic condition which involves very significant emotion coping difficulties, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy can be conducted in weekly or twice weekly visits over a year or more. Nonetheless the skills building group programme is designed to be run over

There are two forms of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Individual DBT and Group DBT. While based on the same underlying principles, DBT Group Therapy tends to focus on teaching practical coping skills, while individual DBT focuses on addressing issues specific to the individual client and assisting the client to put DBT skills into practice in everyday life. Click here for more information on group verses individual DBT.

What is involved in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

DBT Group programs which follow Linehan’s program closely involve training in 4 key areas:

(1) Mindfulness techniques – techniques designed to increase the ability of clients to stay ‘present focussed’ and to overcome the mental wrestle over unwanted intrusive thoughts, images & emotions.

(2) ‘Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills’ – skills at negotiating interpersonal challenges, especially confrontation and conflict.

(3) Emotion Regulation Skills – skills designed to replace unhelpful and/or destructive emotion coping approaches

(4) ‘Distress Tolerance’ Skills – skills to tackle the extreme emotional pain, often associated with crises.

In practice many therapist use DBT skills as part of their treatment approach, particularly in the early stages of treatment for BPD, but may use other treatment techniques such as Schema Therapy and traditional CBT, in their treatment programs.

In fact it is possible to attend DBT Group Skills Training while receiving individual treatment by a therapist using an entirely different treatment approach. This is not usually problematic provided the individual therapist does not use a contradictory treatment approach and the individual therapist is aware of what is occurring in then DBT skills training program.

I’m hoping this therapy will work for my daughter. It’s a chronic condition and requires long-term treatment, but the prognosis appears to be good, particularly for suicide reduction. Keeping my fingers crossed.