A Lesson Through DBT

The Pro’s and Con’s of DBT work in a Residential Treatment Center

I have what you may call a unique job, I teach science at a Residential Treatment Center. I work with young women that can struggle with a wide range of debilitating emotional problems.  Not only do they come to school and go to school together, they also live together.

I grew up in a very large family with 10 brothers and sisters who I love now but absolutely despised growing up in our small house. I got into many arguments and many fights with my siblings in my younger years and I have to say that my mother, god bless her, dealt with us in a very fair and understanding way.

It is then usually no surprise to me when I hear of my students getting into some sort of altercation in their living environment after they leave the school and return back to school the next day. I often wonder how they manage to deal with all of this emotion, and then I get the answer when they put their fist through a wall. This is where we come to the Pro’s and Con’s card in their DBT cards they carry around. I will lay out an example of how it looks.

On one side of the card we have:

What is the crisis-What do you want to do or destroy-Pro of behaviorCon of behaviorWhat is your goal-

On the other side of the card it reads:

Advantage of acting impulsive.Disadvantage of acting impulsive.What happens in the present, here and now.What happen short term and long term.

Turning Actions into a Real-Life Lesson

I like to refer to this card when I talk with one of my students after such and occasion.  I ask them do you feel better or do you feel remorse? I often get a similar response to the offender or the girl who punched the wall “at least I didn’t punch the girl who made me mad.” I totally understand where they come from because as a young man I punched many holes in many walls. This is where I take this card and refer to the long-term consequence that they have to deal with, I ask them, well how you are going to fix the hole in the wall. I usually get a similar answer to this question as well “I don’t know how to fix it so someone else will.” I flash back to when I was young and had to spackle, sand and paint every hole from my youth.

I decided this week that it was time we had a lesson on home improvement.  This week we made 12-inch x 12-inch DBT in the clasroom | Sunrise Residential Treatment Centerboxes with 1×2 inch wood and placed a 12×12 piece of drywall on top. We then fastened the drywall to the frame and went outside. I have to say that some days I really love my job and today was one of those days. Once and for all my students had the go-ahead to lay their best haymaker on this homemade square.

One by one they walloped the drywall, some hands made it through very easily some took a few punches and ended up with a red knuckle. Then it was back to the classroom where they cut holes around the damage, made patches and mudded around the patch. They had a good time making a mess but also got an appreciation of what it takes to fix a problem they had made.

A New Skill Set 

I heard from my students many times, I always wondered how my dad/mom fixed this when I was at home, now at least I can fix it and they will not have to. I love to see these girls make something with their own hands and take an appreciation for their work. So I would like to challenge all of you out there to take your child, younger, older or teenager and do a DIY activity, it is a great bonding time for both of you and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did today as well as giving your child an understanding of a long-term CON when you decide to put a hole in a wall.

By Jacob Grimm

Science Teacher Sunrise Academy