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I began therapy when I was 14 years old. In total, I have spent a little under 10 years in therapy (that is not including the mass amounts of self-help and peer support I have participated in). I have learned a lot of skills while in those sessions that have helped me get to where I am today. It occurred to me when I first started practicing dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) in 2014, that I am surrounded by people who desperately need to learn what I have learned. I acquired valuable life skills because I was deemed to be inadequate in those areas. Yet, I look around and see many examples of poor coping, communication and personal insight from the people who have been deemed “normal”.

I believe that we all need to be on the same page in order to effectively manage our experiences or recover from them. Speaking from experience, it is very difficult to use therapeutic skills with individuals who don’t have them. I can only regulate my emotions and not lose it for a certain amount of time if your first response is to yell at me because you don’t know how to effectively be angry. It can be especially defeating when we behave unskillfully in response to someone else being unskillful because we, as the person with the mental health issue, tend to be scapegoated. We are not born knowing how to effectively communicate or cope with our emotions. This is something EVERYONE needs to be taught.

Here are 3 skills I think EVERYONE should learn.

  1. SET communication method.

The SET communication method was developed to support individuals who have loved ones with borderline personality disorder (BPD) with communication. This means that this communication method is all about validation and support which EVERYONE can benefit from. SET stands for Support, Empathy, and Trust. Using SET ensures that the person you are communicating with knows that you care about them, can understand how they may be feeling and that you will be honest and realistic.

2. Identfying and accepting the need to improve.

I went into therapy because I knew something about myself needed to change. I knew that I could not be sad, angry, afraid and self-destructive forever. I saw this change as positive and I accepted that it needed to happen. I have encountered many individuals in my life who were aggressively against improving themselves, some going as far as stating that people can’t change. As Dr. Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” There is no shame in needing to improve something about yourself. Personal growth can be a beautiful and messy process with very beneficial outcomes that will touch EVERYONE’S life.

3. Boundary Setting

Boundaries are hard to set and enforce. I let others violate my boundaries for many, many years (and still do sometimes). I also wasn’t aware of my boundaries for a long time. Reading the book “Boundaries: Where you End and I Begin” by Anne Katherine helped me with understanding and creating boundaries. In my professional practice and personal life, I have seen countless examples of people not upholding their boundaries. Whether it be at work or in a relationship, knowing what you are ok and not ok with is valuable and healthy for EVERYONE. Knowing how to respect boundaries set by others is also a vital skill to have.


About Kristen Bellows

Kristen lives in Southern Ontario with her partner and their new baby boy! She identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. Kristen is a registered social work, working as a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills group facilitator. She is also training to become a birth and postpartum doula. Since giving birth, Kristen has become interested in exploring how mental health issues intersect with motherhood. Kristen identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. She loves cats, reading, singing, pickles and learning. You can read more of Kristen’s blog posts on her personal blog www.prideinmadness.wordpress.com

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