Get Free!

Sarah Donnini Philbeck's picture

Living with PTSD and/or anxiety can be like swimming in the ocean with no land in sight – it can make us feel small and helpless despite our best efforts to swim ashore. Often, feeling disoriented and without a sense of direction, we spend a lot of time treading water in an effort to stay afloat which leaves us exhausted and run-down. If you have ever experienced anxiety or PTSD, you know the feeling – “I want to feel different, I want to get past this, but sometimes I feel like I am running into a wall over an over again, at full speed.”

 Throughout my entire life, I have struggled with (or have been occasionally been sucker punched by) anxiety. It has taken different forms, sometimes isolating myself from friends and family, sometimes requiring me to surf a friendly panic attack, sometimes resulting in me being so caught up in my anxiety ridden thoughts that I back my brand new car (with a backup camera, mind you) into a pole. Three times. In one week. Don’t judge me. Afraid of walking in front of a parked car because you think someone will honk at you? Me too! To all of my nervous, fidgety, anxious, sweaty palmed readers, I feel ya.

 Here’s the hard, super exciting lesson that I had to learn – the more I avoid my fears, the more they scare me, and the more I avoid. Anxiety drives avoidance and avoidance drives anxiety. And yes I meant to say this is exciting to me. Its exciting because this means if we expose ourselves to the things that scare us – be it walking in front of a parked car, driving during rush hour, riding in an elevator or even trauma memories – the scary things can become less scary overtime (and maybe not scary at all!) AND we learn that we can tolerate intense emotions without spontaneously combusting. This is incredibly powerful and has huge implications for anxiety & trauma treatment. For years clinicians have been using exposure to effectively treat anxiety disorders, including OCD and PTSD. In many cases, with effective exposure treatment, clients who initially meet criteria for PTSD no longer do once they have completed treatment. Prolonged Exposure therapy is one of these modalities, and one of the treatment options that we offer at PDBT through the Trauma and Anxiety Clinic.

 So when I heard that Melanie Harned was doing research and trainings on combining DBT treatment with Prolonged Exposure therapy, you can only imagine my delight. I jumped at the opportunity to attend the training with my supervisor, and off to a week-long intensive training I went! DBT-PE, as it has been dubbed, combines the skills training and supportive elements inherent to DBT with the exposure elements of PE. Instead of waiting until the second year of treatment, as traditional DBT suggests, Dr. Harned’s research shows that PTSD symptoms can begin to be addressed within the first few months of treatment! This means that people can get relief from the anxiety and traumatic memories that they have struggled with (maybe for their entire lives) faster. And I’m all about that. I’m proud to say that we now offer DBT-PE here at Peachtree DBT; we would love to join you on your journey to freedom!

Want to know more about DBT-PE? Click here.