Becoming a DBT Community

Here at the Miller-Dwan Foundation we LOVE Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills training. The reason is simple. It works!

Shortly after Miller-Dwan Foundation’s Amberwing – Center for Youth & Family Well-Being opened in 2012, the facility’s clinical supervisor, Psychologist Rick Gertsema had an idea –– create a culture of mental health wellness through DBT skills immersion.

So, what is DBT? DBT is a well-known and internationally implemented, evidence-based cognitive-behavioral approach to dealing with mental health problems. In other words, it’s a set of coping skills that can change your brain to help you feel better. Today, DBT is a part of all Amberwing activities.

One of the coolest things about DBT skills is that they can work for anyone in any situation. You don’t need to be ill to use the skills. We even learned them here in the Miller-Dwan Foundation office. Mindfulness is one kind of skill. Learning to tolerate distress is another. DBT trainers help people understand that while they can accept themselves just as they are, they still have the capacity to change.

DBT can be hard to explain, but it’s easy to learn. DBT skills can be easily implemented by a variety of professionals, so much so that the American Psychological Association of School Psychology directly recommends teaching DBT skills in the classroom.  And that’s just what the Miller-Dwan Foundation is doing.

Hermantown Schools were the First

Thanks to the insight of staff at Hermantown schools, who requested DBT training, the coping skills are now part of the school’s curriculum. With training from an Amberwing Psychologist, Hermantown school counselors, nurses, teachers, and social workers now can use DBT and train their own staff to use it too. School-wide DBT has expanded from there.

Today, Proctor schools use DBT and so do Ely’s. Several others are in the queue for training all with support from the Miller-Dwan Foundation. “Kids get this.” says Psychotherapist Rick Gertsema. “It’s a culture shift and they just get it in a big way.”

The Miller-Dwan Foundation’s goal is to promote DBT skills as a community language, to normalize it and make everyone feel good about using it, because when it comes right down to it, none of us live life without a crisis occurring.

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Together we will realize our shared vision of a community free from mental health crisis.