An OC client’s peace of mind: color-coded highlighting and sticky notes

“What does RO-DBT stand for?” I asked, my ears perking up. Of course, I needed to know what the acronym stood for, immediately.

After all, it was my common practice that whenever I heard a word I didn’t understand, I just had to learn its definition as soon as possible, even if it meant excusing myself to go to the bathroom to Google the word.

Thank God for technology, and goodbye old and heavy dictionary!

“It stands for Radically-Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy,” my skills class instructor answered offhandedly. Then he returned his attention to the rest of the group and moved on to the next topic.

I was 21 years old at the time and attending a standard DBT skills class. The curious gal that I am, I researched everything I could about RO-DBT as soon as I got home. And so began my journey of learning more about this new treatment, its transformative power and what it had to offer.

After doing intensive research, my mind was completely blown. I was immediately drawn to the treatment and its various components. It resonated with me to a degree that other treatments had not before. I was overjoyed, relieved, and felt validated, because I had not heard of overcontrolled coping before, and everything suddenly made more sense to me.

So, I ordered both the treatment and skills training manual, and read them both within a few weeks (in my defense, it was summertime, I was naturally a fast reader, and I had plenty of time for “leisure.”). I highlighted all the paragraphs that resonated with me, used color coded post its and highlighters, and drank a lot of coffee throughout the process. I had always loved learning, so even though I was not a clinician myself, I still wanted to learn as much as I could about RO-DBT.

In the RO-DBT manual, the author writes that sometimes, clients will be so eager that they will come to know the skills better than the therapists themselves, and that this is yet another indicator of their tendency towards maladaptive overcontrol. This part made me laugh, and I felt somewhat pleased and personally attacked at the same time. It was funny to me how the author had been spot on, and at the same time, I did not like it when people read me so easily.

Regardless, I still typed up a 30 pages summary of what I had learned (very OC of me), brought a list of my favorite quotes to my individual therapist, and began to spread my knowledge of the treatment to everyone who would listen (here I’d like to extend my gratitude to my friends, who listened to me for hours while I talked about RO-DBT’s biosocial theory).

Fast forward a couple years later, and I’m still an avid fan of the treatment. I have participated in an RO-DBT skills class and enjoyed it very much.

I encountered this blog the first time I researched RO-DBT and remember reading every single entry. So, not too long ago, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and contact the individuals who manage this blog.

“Why not?” I thought it would be a cool opportunity to write about RO-DBT from a client’s perspective, and although I was excited, I also tried not to get my hopes up. I didn’t want to feel disappointed if the answer was a hard no.

When I learned that I could, indeed, write a blog post, I felt elated, and at the same time, my anxiety rose enormously. I knew right then that this was a great opportunity to practice self-enquiry and find “my edge,” or “personal unknown.”

What was the threat?

Did I really want to put myself out there? If yes, what did that say about my willingness to grow?

Was I simply trying to protect myself and my insecurities by secretly hoping that my blog post would be better written than all the other ones?

Would others judge my writing, my imperfect grammar, my use of too many adverbs? If they did, what did that say about me as a person? As a writer?

What was behind my motivation and wish to write the “perfect” blog post?

What if the blog post was published, and later, I found a spelling mistake that couldn’t be corrected?

Honestly, as an English literature major, the last one was one of the worst-case scenarios.

In the end, I did end up writing the blog entry you are reading now. I felt out of my comfort zone the whole time, but it was worth it.

When I first learned about RO-DBT, I did not feel as alone in the world. I was overjoyed at the possibility that I could live my life differently, with more spontaneity, forgiveness, and openness.

RO-DBT has eased so much of my suffering, and I’m so grateful for the treatment. I can’t wait to continue to grow and feel comforted by the fact that I’m a valuable member of the tribe.

Now, the real challenge is: can you guess how many times I proofread this blog post before submitting it?

The answer might or might not be what you think. 🙂


About the Author: Daphnée

Daphnée studies English literature at The University of British Columbia. She works as a Youth Peer Support Worker, enjoys volunteering with inner-city kids, and tries not to take life too seriously.