The one about mindfulness for small drama princes

Sheri Van Dijk, Surviving the Emotional Roller Coaster (2016)

You, reader, have every right to shake your head and think: What on earth does she think she’s doing downloading from Netgalley a book about DBT skills for teens? She’s no doctor, she doesn’t know sh*t anything about DBT and she has no teens at home (yet).

Yes, you have a point. But my interest was roused when I read “emotional rollercoaster” and “skills” paired together in a single sentence, because we have a boy who is sometimes a tiny drama… prince, switching from bored to excited to grumpy to jumping up and down and back again. And I wanted to hear that there was something to be done instead of “waiting it out”.

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and is, in my comprehension, a mix of behavioral therapy and mindfulness concepts. Its purpose is to teach how to regulate emotions for people who have some kind of borderline personality disorder or depressive tendencies, but in this particular book the writer talks to teens who are prone, by definition, to unregulated emotions. It teaches skills like meditation, naming emotions, non-judgmental self-validation, etc.

The voice of the book was that of a professional talking directly to the teen in an informed, but not superior, voice. Van Dijk is a mental health professional with a practice in Ontario, Canada, and she seems to have a lot of experience with teens and YA. There was no oversimplification nor sugar-coating about the effort that these skills require and how difficult it is sometimes to regulate one’s emotions. I guess many adults would benefit from hearing this too.

The small drawback was that I found it a bit dry and distanced. Of course, the point is all about being non-judgmental (especially in the points where Van Dijk points out that doing drugs and binge-drinking may have a negative influence on emotions), but sometimes I would have liked a bit more warmth and friendliness instead of “just” professional empathy. But too much warmth for an angry, aggressive teen in total rebellion might be a turn-off, so Van Dijk probably chose the most effective approach.

The book presupposes that the reader is already on-board with the program and has already a clear awareness that his/her emotions are unbalanced and generating lots of problems in his/her life. The reader is supposed to be quite mature about assessing him/herself, but only needs to learn some skills. I’m not sure if younger teens would have already this level of awareness and willpower, so I guess the book is best read by young adults and late teens. I might come back to this book for future reference, or maybe try to find some simplified version for younger kids.


4 thoughts on “The one about mindfulness for small drama princes

  1. I don’t know if this would help my youngest godson who does have problems, but I think his mother might benefit from reading it. I also have a neighbour who is one of the world’s great drama queens. Any good giving her a copy, do you think? 🙂

  2. No judgment by me on reading this even if it’s not directly applicable to your life. I looooove behavioral therapy and all its techniques and things. I do not want to be a therapist AT ALL and I think I would not do well in that life, but I do love reading about what therapy is getting up to.

  3. I used to work at a nonprofit doing IT and one of the services provided was DBT. From what I learned while there it is a really good and useful therapy. We saw a variety of women (it was a women’s clinic) but focused mainly on serving those who have drug and alcohol problems. It seemed to really work well for a lot of people. Maybe you can figure out a way to modify some of the things in the book to help your drama prince? Good luck!

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