One of my favorite things about DBT is how every intervention makes sense for the overall goal of reducing interpersonal chaos and how that goal makes so much sense for the treatment population  it was designed to help. I’m not going to get into a debate as to whether it’s the “best” treatment; but I think it is probably the most efficient and “designed with focus” treatments around.

Again, I practice from three different modalities so it’s not like I have a horse in the race. DBT is my preference when trying to help clients develop the capacity for mindfulness because of how practical it is when approaching the topic – within DBT mindfulness has a utility that specifically connects to the core issue driving a problem. No where is this more apparent than in the How Skill – Effectively.

One common approach to teaching any skill in DBT (and CBT for that manner) are parables and, where appropriate, self disclosure. In teaching Effectively I talk to clients about an experience I had back in my 20’s.

I was working at my first management position 2 years out of grad school, saving for a wedding and working for an organization that was going through a merger resulting in a lot of downsizing. On top of all that, I had to deal with the issue of a title change. My office was conveniently located above a Motor Vehicles Agency, which I thought would make the whole thing a breeze. I ended up having to visit the DMV several times and each time I felt I was given the run around which led to me becoming more frustrated each time I had to go.

During the last visit, the agent and his supervisor basically blew me off and informed me that more information was needed, which is what I was told during each of the prior visits. It felt like each time I went, there was some other reason as to why they couldn’t do what I needed them to do which meant using a lunch hour (which was really just an hour of work) to wait on line again. But this time was different. I became so pissed off at the “injustice” and incompetence of the whole thing that I went on a 5 minute stump speech about the evils and incompetence of bureaucracies.

A very loud stump speech.

And I felt justified and right with what I was saying, after all it was their errors that were wasting my time and they took no ownership, they showed no interest or concern that my life was busy and my time was being wasted. At the end of my rendition of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, everyone else there erupted in applause.

Then I was asked to leave and never come back; the manager informed me that I was “banned”.

Initially, it felt good to react in this way and to throw it back in their face. It felt good to have other people applaud me for doing that. Vengeance, vindictiveness and giving someone who deserves it a verbal beat down always feels good, especially when you’re right and everyone else knows you’re right.

But it was ineffective.

In the end, I had to restart the process with another DMV. I could no longer use the DMV that was one floor down from my office. I failed to realize that in a place like the DMV, the folks who work there are as much a slave to their protocols as I am – the only difference being the side of the counter they were on. I failed to realize that bureaucracies are numb to the consequences of their protocols because the protocols are just how its’ done – its not personal.

That is the essence of Effectively, that just because something feels right; just because it IS right doesn’t mean it’s effective. It’s about taming both logic and emotion with the realities of context and acting effectively within that context to get what you need – even if it means having to come back to the table more times than you’d like.