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Psychiatric Unit Teaches Skills for Life

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The Psychiatric Inpatient Unit, along with other Behavioral Health units within Providence Southwest Washington, uses an innovative behavioral program called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) with patients. DBT was first developed at the University of Washington by Marsha Linehan, and Providence Behavioral Health staff have been trained in the therapy through recent grant support.

TJ LaRocque, Assistant Nurse Manager / Educator for the Psychiatric Inpatient Acute Unit, says, “DBT guides our program. With the emphasis on building skills during groups, patients are validated for who they are and prepared for making the mindful changes they need to make.”

Patients in the psychiatric unit often have problems with regulating emotions and tolerating distress, as is the case with depression, anxiety disorders, and borderline personality disorder. The skills that are taught in DBT provide ways of dealing with emotions and distress in a positive manner, both in the short-term and the long-term. “We’re helping our patients to accept and care for themselves, while aiding them in adapting new and healthier methods of handling their emotions,” says LaRocque.

When a patient is admitted to the psychiatric unit, the staff begin to look at the world in which the patient lives to determine how to best meet that patient’s needs. Through teaching and reinforcement of DBT skills, the patient then learns a set of strategies that may help the patient in dealing with the problems they face, both on the unit and following discharge. Matthew Grohne, Occupational Therapist on the Psychiatric Inpatient Unit, says, “These skills help to give patients a concrete plan – things they can do to lead happier and healthier lives.”

DBT skills are taught in a group setting and reinforced in the milieu, with the aim of having these skills become a part of patients’ daily habits. “The goal of any inpatient program is to help the patient through an acute crisis and into a place of safety. Our program is trying to take it one step further by providing patients a set of skills so they won’t end up back with that acute need,“ says Grohne. “Since we began the shift to DBT, there has definitely been an increase in patient engagement, and feedback has been very positive.”