RO DBT: a new way of moving around your life

When I was offered RO DBT, I thought, “Right, this is going to make everything better. Let’s go.” I figured that I would turn up every week, listen to what I was told, and by the time I reached the end of the course, as if by magic, I would be cured, my life would be in order and I’d be free of any mental health issues.

The first few weeks, I wondered why that wasn’t happening. If each lesson was a step on the road to this idealised future, surely I would feel forward progress? Why were things still such a struggle? Wasn’t it working?

It was then that I realised the course doesn’t ‘fix’ you. Instead, it gives you the tools to face the challenges of life a bit more flexibly so that when you’re released back out into the wild, you can deal with things more effectively than you did before. You can’t just sit there and passively absorb the information – you have to do the work yourself.

RO DBT isn’t like surgery where somebody else comes in and repairs the damage. It’s more like learning to ride a bike. The therapists fit you on the stabilisers, hold you up, give you encouragement and pick you up when you fall, but ultimately, you’re the one pedalling. It’s terrifying and uncomfortable and you wobble all over the place. It feels really unnatural. But as you go into the classes and one-to-ones and tell them about your experiences – this week I hit a rock, last week I struggled with a hill – things slowly start to make sense.

Before the end, your confidence grows, you experiment with new ways of riding, and you start thinking about what happens next. Finally, when it’s time to leave, they take off the stabilisers and you’re away, with new skills to see you through the hard times and more flexible ways of coping.

Am I ‘fixed’? No. That’s an unrealistic goal for therapy. However, I can now ride a bike and I know how to get back on if I fall off. The future remains up to me and it is on me how I apply these lessons to my life. At the end of the day, it remains a choice, but so long as I continue to take things one hour, one minute, one breath at a time, I think I’ll be okay.

My advice to people starting RO DBT is to see it as a new way of moving around your life. Your current coping style, walking, is comfortable and it’s familiar, but it was walking that got you here in the first place. Perhaps riding a bike might make things a little easier? That’s up to you, but one thing is certain: you’ll never know until you try.

Andy – RO DBT Graduate

Andy is a writer and musician from Poole who enjoys cycling, movies and anything to do with Jane Austen. Through RO DBT he discovered a talent for amateur dramatics and in the space of a year has given 18 performances to almost 3000 people.