Solstice East Debuts Evolved DBT Approach Into Its RTC Programming
Solstice East recognizes the inherent benefits of instilling the teachings of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) into its residential treatment center programming for students ages 14-17 and has relaunched an evolved approach into its programming. The Western North Carolina-based RTC discovered that teaching DBT’s essential skills through the integration of experiential activities produces a greater impact on its milieu, and teenagers in general. Through their evolution, they have updated how they teach mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance by observing a student’s response and subsequent progress first-hand. From observing their students over the years, Solstice East has observed the following four main lessons that have directly shaped the way DBT is taught in their program:
- Emotion regulation is at the core of an adolescent’s healing process – although mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance are all essential. Students who experience a breakthrough in navigating and recognizing intense negative emotions are generally able to more effectively access other therapeutic modalities which can lead to greater and deeper healing.
- DBT skills are not as effective as a stand-alone treatment modality for adolescents; there must be a parallel treatment process in place to treat the root of a student’s emotion dysregulation. For most of their student population, the crux is chronic traumatic stress. The more significant and long-lasting relief from emotion dysregulation will come as a result of treating the trauma.
- Typically, an RTC student has been living and functioning in the emotional part of their brain (limbic system or lower) due to traumatic stress. Solstice East discovered through ongoing observations that teaching adolescents skills through the traditional modality does not necessarily integrate the skills effectively. Students might “know” and can verbally recite the skills, but they aren’t able to demonstrate and “live” the skills.
- Teenagers develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills faster and more effectively when taught experientially. By integrating information into a first-hand experience, students can retain and apply therapeutic concepts more productively into their daily lives.
Solstice East has found that the path to integrating these skills most effectively is through experiential therapies – primarily equine, adventure, and milieu therapy. They have opted to teach the skills of interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, mindfulness, and distress tolerance through experiential modalities versus traditional DBT skills groups. The result has been quicker integration and translation of the skills into everyday life.
For example, Solstice East’s equine therapy is an integral therapeutic modality utilized by their clinical team. During a session, the equine facilitator might task a student or group of students with having a horse choose to follow them into the pen without the use of a training halter. Typically, a student will try and fail. The facilitator will then teach an emotion regulation skill and have the student practice it, reflect on how they are feeling, and then try the approach again while they are functioning in a more regulated state.
A student that experiences the success of utilizing an emotion regulation skill then has that feeling imprinted on neurological, psychological, emotional, and physiological levels, and thus, a new neural pathway has been formed. With practice, the student will strengthen this alternative neural pathway and respond to future scenarios by channeling this new tract. The benefit of applying experiential therapies when teaching DBT skills to students has been apparent in our empirical results. For teenagers, learning through experience is the best way to learn how to live in the moment, cope with stress, regulate emotions, and improve relationships.
To learn more about therapeutic services offered at Solstice East, visit https://solsticeeast.com/therapy/ or call (855) 672-7058.
About Solstice East
Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-17 struggling with process addictions, substance use, and trauma. This program helps young women detach from unhealthy coping mechanisms by integrating healthy habits into their lives. Students learn to cope with emotions, communicate effectively, form healthy relationships, and build confidence. Their holistic approach acknowledges that addiction is only one piece of the puzzle to be addressed in order to help girls succeed in multiple areas of their lives.