September 24, 2021
Dear families of new students,
As you may know, the social-emotional learning curriculum at the high school is delivered mainly through health classes. The curriculum is rooted in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills. Our teachers and counseling staff have participated in extensive training related to the teaching of DBT skills in order to support and improve our students’ emotional problem-solving skills.
DBT skills exist in 4 areas: mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. Students learn what each of these things is along with strategies they can access in order to …
For today’s tip, I’d like to introduce you to two specific DBT skills we use with students that might also be useful at home:
Validation is the act of communicating to another person that their thoughts, feelings, or actions in a particular situation are understandable. It is not about agreement, it’s about acknowledging where someone is coming from. At WHS we use validation to communicate our understanding and to prompt dialectical thinking by connecting two statements using the word AND. For example, in addressing a student who has not completed a homework assignment, we might say, “I understand that you had a lot of commitments yesterday afternoon, AND you need to complete your homework on time in order to be prepared for class.” Validation is a powerful tool; it strengthens relationships, shows that you are listening, and demonstrates that disagreement can occur without conflict.
Radical acceptance is acknowledging and accepting reality as it is, rather than how we think it should be. The importance of radical acceptance is understanding that some things are inevitable; our reactions are what we can control. While acceptance can bring about painful emotions, there are tools and skills that can be applied in order to cope with those emotions. In other words, acceptance turns suffering students can’t cope with into emotions they can recognize and work through. In order to help students practice radical acceptance, we must help them turn questioning statements into facts (i.e. instead of, “it shouldn’t be this way,” “this is what happened). From the facts, we can acknowledge the causes and resulting emotions and begin working to cope with the emotions.
The whole concept of DBT is based in the premise that two opposite ideas can be true at the same time and, when considered together, can create a new truth and a new way of viewing a situation. When we are able to help students reframe their thinking, they can work through challenging situations and build resilience.
Juliane Givoni, Interim Principal