Parallel Session 2

Using Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Skills to Promote Body Acceptance

 

Summary

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is premised on the foundational idea that when we do not accept reality, our pain becomes suffering. In order to reduce suffering and build a life worth living, we need to learn to both accept reality as it is and work on changing behaviours and situations that are unhelpful to us. Simultaneously working towards both acceptance and change is at the core of DBT.

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to key DBT skills that may be helpful in promoting a greater sense of body acceptance, with the goal not of changing one’s body, but rather changing one’s experience of their body. A brief orientation to the principles of DBT will be provided. The role of emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in maintaining body nonacceptance will be discussed. Then, selected DBT skills will be introduced, through a lens focused on changing problematic body-image related behaviours and promoting acceptance of one’s body exactly as it is. Didactic and experiential approaches will be used to illustrate these skills.

 

Abstract

Individuals who experience body image distress and eating disorders often feel like they are fighting an uphill battle, working tirelessly to change their bodies and yet never feeling good enough. For some people it may feel like every day is a struggle. Others may believe that there must be a miracle solution out there and that they just have not discovered it yet. Regardless, for most people with ongoing body image distress or eating disorders, fighting with and against one’s body on an ongoing basis creates a lot of mental and emotional suffering.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based treatment that was initially designed and tested with individuals with primary difficulties with emotion regulation and suicidal behaviours. However, DBT has also been shown to be an effective treatment for individuals with eating disorders. DBT is premised on the foundational idea that when we do not accept reality, our pain becomes suffering. In order to reduce suffering and build a life worth living, we need to learn to both accept reality as it is and work on changing behaviours and situations that are unhelpful to us. Simultaneously working towards both acceptance and change is at the core of DBT.

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to key DBT skills that may be helpful in promoting a greater sense of body acceptance, with the goal not of changing one’s body, but rather changing one’s experience of their body. A brief orientation to the principles of DBT will be provided. The role of emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in maintaining body nonacceptance will be discussed. Then, selected DBT skills will be introduced, through a lens focused on changing problematic body-image related behaviours and promoting acceptance of one’s body exactly as it is.

In terms of specific skills, the role of mindfulness will be highlighted as a practice that can be cultivated to foster a greater sense of nonjudgmental experiencing of the present moment, as opposed to ruminating on the past, worrying about the future, or getting trapped in judgments. Observing and describing emotions and thoughts as experiences that we have as opposed to necessary truths about ourselves will be discussed. Emotion regulation strategies such as opposite to emotion action will be discussed as a way of responding to negative body-related emotions in a way that promotes emotion regulation and effective behaviours. Distress tolerance strategies will be introduced as a way of getting through difficult body image moments without engaging in behaviours which will make the situation worse in the long term. And finally, the concept of radical acceptance – that is, striving to totally, fully accept reality exactly as it is – will be taught as both an aspirational goal and a concrete skill that can be used as individuals work towards achieving body acceptance. Didactic and experiential approaches will be used to illustrate these skills.

 

Knowledge Level: Intermediate/Expert

 

Presenter Biography

Danielle MacDonald received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Ryerson University, where she focused her research and clinical training on the evidence based treatment of eating disorders. She completed her clinical psychology residency at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, where she completed major rotations in Eating Disorders and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, as well as a minor rotation in Anxiety Disorders. Dr. MacDonald is currently a staff psychologist at the University Health Network, working out of the Toronto General Hospital Eating Disorder Program, where she is conducting research on the evidence-based treatment of eating disorders and working clinically with clients. She is also working in private practice at EBT3: Evidence Based Therapy, Training, and Testing, where she is providing dialectical behaviour therapy to clients with borderline personality disorder and related concerns. Dr. MacDonald is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario as a psychologist in supervised practice.