The work of stabilisation focuses on each individual in therapy being sufficiently “safe ” and “stable” before a therapist explores an individual’s understanding (sometimes referred to as therapeutic processing and insight work) of past traumas/stressful/painful memories. The position of therapists who practice stabilisation, is that therapists initially assume the role of teacher and guide individuals to develop or re-connect with effective strategies to reduce distress, painful/intrusive memories and address immediate concerns.
Tools used by Gold Coast DBT Clinic therapists, during stabilisation, may include DBT, CBT, crisis intervention, psychoeducation, mindfulness, and therapist modelling. A particular attention to safety, life-skill-building, and individual empowerment underpin the therapeutic process. Once an individual is sufficiently “safe” and “stable”, and indicates a desire for additional support, then the therapeutic approach of the therapist will move more towards empathic listening, attention to an individual’s experiences and a deeper exploration of trauma and painful memories.
What is different about a Stabilisation Approach?
Firstly, stabilisation begins with a change in attitude by the therapist that moves away from the no pain and no gain mentality. Therapists also put aside the immediate exploration of trauma and distress in pursuit of a “safe” and “stable” for individuals in treatment. The belief of therapists, using a stabilisation-based approach, is that therapy can be safe, insightful and life-changing without feeling overwhelmed or remembering painful and traumatic events.
We are often told that therapists/mental health professionals will help individuals “get over trauma”, “feel better”, “improve how you handle stressful situations” by “talking about feelings” as well as stresses, trauma and painful experiences. Whilst that approach may work for some individuals, a stabilization approach focus is on an individual’s capacity to effectively recognise, reduce, manage and anticipate their symptoms/distress. Further, stabilisation-based approaches place a priority on reducing shame, fear, and intrusive memories/traumas/distress by increasing individual control, overall awareness of the present moment and accessing individual strategies/life-skills/resources.
What Stabilisation Based Approaches are used at the Coast DBT Clinic?
The reason we are called Gold Coast DBT is that our clinicians provide a DBT informed approach to stabilisation. This means our clinicians, who are credentialed DBT practitioners, utilise a range of DBT skills, strategies and resources to assist individuals who feel overwhelmed and distressed to sufficiently feel “safe” and “stable” before moving into deeper therapeutic work. Gold Coast DBT recognises our patients are individuals and for some individuals the stabilisation phase of treatment may only be a few sessions and for others as long as is needed to sufficiently feel “safe” and “stable”.
Our therapists also utilise a range of other approaches including:
This information was prepared by our clinical and academic lead Dr. Peter King who is the editor and author of the upcoming text, Stabilisation Based Approaches in Mental Health Care.