Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Wise Mind
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was developed with the goal of helping patients who struggle with managing their emotions, making rational choices and may have difficulty with interpersonal relationships. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT for short, is a type of therapy that integrates mindfulness practices and therapeutic interventions such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment and focusing on what is happening within ourselves and the world around us. DBT describes different ways to access mindfulness through the art of deep breathing, meditation and cognitive exercises.
One of the core principles of DBT mindfulness is the idea of accessing our ‘Wise Mind’. Linehan describes it as using the ‘inherent wisdom each person has within.’ (Linehan, 2015). Wise Mind is the idea of approaching life with a balance of both emotion and reason. In Wise Mind, we utilize both the left and right brain when communicating with others and making important decisions for ourselves. DBT explains that as humans we may veer towards other states of mind including ‘reasonable mind’ or ‘emotion mind’. Sometimes our intense emotions or preoccupation with logic get in the way of us being able to access Wise Mind.
In ‘emotion mind’, one is emotion-focused and ruled by moods, feelings and urges. We would say emotion mind is affiliated with our right brain. For example, when we are in emotion mind, we may raise our voices to our loved ones because feelings of anger or frustration have taken over us. The opposite of emotion mind is ‘reasonable mind’, this is the part of our brain ruled by facts, reason and logic. An example of reasonable mind is giving directions from your home to your local grocery store. There are no emotions involved in this process, simply facts and logic. In Wise Mind, our goal is to blend reasonable mind and emotion mind as we cannot live in reasonable mind or emotion mind all the time.
How do I access my Wise Mind?
One can do various exercises to access Wise Mind. When presented with a difficult situation, it is important to focus on deep breathing. As you breathe in, silently say ‘Wise’ to yourself and as you breathe out, silently say ‘Mind’. Practice this breathing exercise as many times as you need to in order to reach a place of relaxation and focus, then decide how you want to proceed. Another helpful technique to access it is to think about something you want to do, an opinion or thought, and ask yourself, ‘Is this Wise Mind?’. For example, if you decide to skip your vegetables and head straight for dessert, ask yourself if you are making this decision with Wise Mind? Or let’s say you wake up and decide you do not want to go to work because you’re tired and think you’ll tell your boss you’re quitting; is this a decision we are making using our Wise Mind? Giving ourselves time to pause and reflect will help bring clarity and balance between our emotional state and our reasonable state.
We can also practice using Wise Mind by breathing slowly and intentionally. Inhale for 4 seconds, then pause for 6 seconds then breathe out for 8 seconds. This technique is called ‘4-6-8 breathing’. When we pause in between breaths, this helps to slow down our thinking and our bodies in a way that helps us access it. These are just a few examples of how we can access Wise Mind. Some people may feel that they ‘don’t have it or feel like they’re constantly in a state of emotional crisis. The good news is that we all have Wise Mind and with effort and practice, we can learn to access this state on a daily basis.
At My Psychiatrist, we have licensed Clinical Social Workers trained in DBT. We provide both DBT skills group and individualized DBT services. If you are interested in DBT or have questions about our services, please contact us at 954-561-6222 or reach out to us online by filling out this form.