Dialectical Behavior Therapy

RAHS Scarlett Middle School this past year piloted an exciting therapy group that incorporated actors from Wild Swan Theater. The project was funded through MDCH and a Medicaid matching grant. The group met for 20 sessions throughout the course of the year and learned DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) through interactive activities. DBT is a therapy model focused on building skills of mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. Our approach in using actors is based off the knowledge that adolescents are here and now people and often need to experience in order to understand. We felt using role plays and scenarios would increase investment and likelihood our students would retain DBT skills.

Actors Sandy Ryder and Jenn Book Haselswerdt from Wild Swan Theater did an amazing job of making our group active and lively. The group loved the warm-up theater games like Kitty Wants a Corner where people have to swap chairs through eye contact and taking risks without the kitty getting their seat. Group members progressed to able to write scenes relevant to their life and act them out, editing and changing the scene to reflect DBT skills they had learned.

A highlight of the group was this past spring they presented in front of 300 health professionals at the Adolescent Health Initiative Conference in Ypsilanti, MI. The group had all 300 health professionals practicing theater games in the conference hall. One member of the group thanked all the professionals for their dedication to helping adolescents and received a standing ovation. The project will continue next year with a new set of students. A manual has also been developed and will be presented at several conferences with the hope that it will be duplicated at other health centers.

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