The premise of Dr. Veronica Hutchings's work is simple – help clients lead happier and more productive lives. The execution of that goal is a little more complex.
Dr. Hutchings, psychologist and assistant professor with Counselling Services and the Psychology department, has been learning about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). She recently returned from training at The DBT Centre of Vancouver. Specifically, she has been focused on learning how to train others in the DBT skills - a toolbox of strategies and concrete skills that can be used with students. Dr. Hutchings's work will incorporate mindfulness, crisis survival strategies, radical acceptance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal and relationship skills.
The skills are an array of strategies designed to help people struggling with unhealthy behaviours and tendencies. The DBT skills help people be more mindful, better tolerate distress, improve interpersonal relationships and effectively manage their emotions. These skills are increasingly being used to assist people also struggling with a variety of other mental health problems, including substance abuse, eating disorders and treatment resistant depression.
Dr. Hutchings is employing new teaching strategies when working with clients both individually and in groups including didactics, video and audio clips, role-plays and experiential exercise.
"I sought out formal training in DBT after coming to Grenfell Campus," said Dr. Hutchings. "In my first year here, I had several student clients seeking therapy who engaged in recurrent self-harm and/or had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Since DBT is an empirically supported treatment for individuals with these psychological conditions, I wanted to learn more about it. When the opportunity came for me to travel to Vancouver to attend a workshop to learn how to teach DBT skills to clients I jumped at the chance."
While DBT is not normally available to people in smaller communities because of the large amount of resources required to offer it, Dr. Hutchings is creating a DBT-informed series of groups called Coping with Life that is conducive to the university environment.
"For example, if students are feeling down or worried about something, but not entirely sure why, I often recommend they practice the mindfulness skills of observe and describe to help them identify what is troubling them. If students are struggling with a decision they need to make, I introduce the decisional balance worksheet, a distress tolerance skill. Other times, if they are experiencing intense emotions that are difficult to control, I will introduce emotional regulation strategies like the skill of opposite action, which involves getting a person to do the opposite of what they want to do when an emotion is not justified."
ABOUT FOR THE RECORD:
the semester we will highlight some of the interesting research taking
place at Grenfell Campus. The articles will appear here and will be
compiled on the research webpage.
Article prepared by Melanie Callahan