DBT: Dialectal behavioral therapy- emotional regulation for remodels


Okay. So we are here today with a very special guest, a friend, a colleague, a long time colleague, Wendy Douglas. We go way back, way back, right to the county department of mental health. I worked in the children’s unit and when D worked in the adult unit and. That’s how I began to Revere Wendy’s work because she’s a creative.

She always was a creative and she. Is a stellar clinician. And without any further ado, the psycho tech doesn’t, I’m bringing Wendy Douglas on the podcast today because she is one of the premier facilitators of a really, really effective treatment intervention called dialectical behavior therapy.


DBT started by Susan Shapiro. Correct. No actually Marsha Linehan. Oh, I’m sorry. Marshall Linehan. That was EMDR hero in the eighties. That’s right. Okay. So let’s go into that because, well, first of all, just to finish the introduction of for how we knew each other, but you, you began this group. At the Los Angeles department of mental health when I met you.


So yes, without further ado, please. Let’s introduce Wendy.


Thank you so much for having me. Yeah, we’re going back to our original days at the county when they, they, you know, the county was really brave. Rachel Day started DBT. Popularized at the time. And I was like, what’s this DBT thing. And then I sort of learned it in that setting, which was really interesting.

Right. You with a treatment modality with people who were. In great need, I mean, homeless substance using individuals. So that’s how, that’s how I learned it in like the, the trenches. Yeah, no, that’s what was going to say that it was really starting to take off. And the fact that the county really brought this powerful intervention in and working with very, a very high need population.


Right. And Maslow’s hierarchy really still finding housing and health and so much you had to be accounting for and. I think DBT while I Y introduced this today, it’s may is mental health month, but also DBT. I do feel this skillset should be learned. Everyone should learn this skill set and it should be taught like in middle school.

And I think this is as we work with remodels and architects and designers, and we’re also looking at Wendy’s amazing interior design job that she’s done on her own house. DBT skills can not only be used. With, you know, in your psychotherapy practice, but it can be used in a remodel and it gets right. So let’s just talk about, you know, the history of DBT and, and you know, what you did.


Well, DBT is essentially emotional regulation skills, right? Well, you said it nicely. You said life skills, like over skills for everyone. And it originally, the reason why it has a little stigma, I mean, residual, right, is that Marsha Linehan created DBT to address people who are really emotionally dysregulation dysregulated in suicide.

Right then some borderline personality disorder diagnosis. It really treats that disorder really well for a long time, people said, oh, borderlines, can’t be sexed. And they need to go do the DVT. And so DBT got this reputation and it was only for borderlines, but it’s not. So now, well, as the research body grows, we understand that it helps anybody regulate.

Right? We’re all like have moments of dysregulation. Yes. So it is comprehensive life skills. And now we know anyone to know anyone who’s in skill, someone with anxiety, someone with a substance use problem, someone with an eating disorder issue. And then we have people coming in our program that are just.

I want to learn, you know, better regulation and communication skills. Like for example, we were talking about earlier, like working with my contractor who was driving me crazy. Like I use all the DBT skills. Exactly. It is especially useful when working with a contractor and working with. Rebuild or remodel team, because how much of the frustration and, and what it triggers.

I mean, we’ll go into what DBT is and then actually, yeah, let’s go into just like the major tenants of it and let’s see how it was applied because it does, I think remodels and design jobs can really trigger that amygdala in us and all those earlier wounds. I mean, I know for me, my control issues come.

So big time. Yes. I think about you and your amazing space there. And I’m like that Virgo. She’s so amazing. She’s so organized. You’re right about that. I, in fact, it’s funny. I hadn’t really thought about that. How DBT then one of the major tenants is that it balanced balances. Acceptance. Versus the dialectic, which means the opposite right change.

So you’re always having to decide what to accept and live with and what you want to work to change. And those two things, those poles, Paul against each other all the time. And so think about in contracting or any remodel or any project you’re like, can I live with this like this? Or am I going to. Is this the hill to die on that says it so well.

And I love how you just put the, is it the dialectical of, can I live with this? Can I sit with this or is this going to be like, what’s gonna, you know, implode on me and it’s holding those is, is the dialectical and DBT, like you’re saying, holding those two areas. Yeah, because two things can be true at once.

And so we’re living with the discomfort of an ambiguous situation and we’re deciding, you know, with our wise mind, which is the DBT term of our emotions and our logic. So another dialectic emotions and logic, and we’re always looking for a synthesis, like what can I live with? What resonates for me in this scenario using the wisdom of your emotion?

And using the wisdom of your logic and putting it together for an outcome or a desire goal. That’s so perfectly stated. And like you’ve just described it. Who could not benefit from just being able to, I think Barbara Streisand even said this, like the key to her, you know, I don’t know. I might be misquoting her, but to, to hold conflict.

And to know we can have two different, we can have many different emotions, we don’t have to necessarily fix it. And I love DBT. And how you describe this in that we have to use wise mind. We have to evaluate the facts, so to speak our emotional life with our logical life. Yes. And I would add to that another tenant of DBT, by the way, is this wisdom we take from Eastern Zen Buddhism, which is the nonjudgmental stance, really approaching your life, your emotions, your decisions, other people, difficult situations with Nangia.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you for reminding me of that, that there is a strong spiritual, Buddhist principle or attitude in the work. And that I love that even more because it synthesizes it with so many therapies, right? Like cognitive behavioral therapy, compassion, you know, with the nonjudgmental stance. And that’s beautifully stated, so thank you, right?

Yeah. To have the nonjudgmental. So for example you know, like you said, DBT started off treating borderline personality disorder and what, why that was so effective in reducing suicidality or going into the hospital was because the borderline state. You know, it’s that primitive state, right? It’s that fight or flight when we look at trauma, right.

It’s very unconscious. Well, yeah. You tell me. Yeah, no, I think it’s, it’s very black and white. Right, right. Stay away from black and white thinking, which is like, this situation is so terrible. I just want to die. I can’t. And a lot of that has to do with grief and loss, right? Like I’m so alone and in this moment and things for.

A lot of people can feel like unrelenting crisis or really difficult situations where it does feel like, oh my God, what is life? It’s going to look like this and kind of digging yourself out of a hole. So we’re constantly trying to say, okay, but that’s this moment, let’s look at broader context.

Let’s take a dialectical approach to time to the situation. So it’s tough, tough work with people who are suicidal of course, in extreme, but correct. It’s still, we suffer a lot. We, humans suffer a lot, sort of find a middle path around some of our difficult issues is challenging. So that’s why. Yeah, I love that.


Yeah. In the middle path, another doodle, just concept, right. And finding this middle path and that, so often the splitting of seeing things in black and white, well, that person’s bad cause they did that or I’m going to have to write them off and that’s the easy part. But when we have to kind of. Evaluate the good, bad and the ugly and everybody, right.

That’s the hardest part, right. And humanity. How do you keep people around and you’re mad at them or how you’re going to throw relationship away completely. And are you going to throw the baby out with the bath water or are you gonna integrate people’s flaws your, your angry feelings and sort of, you know, have more of an amalgam of the.


It’s such a approach. It’s such a therapeutic approach to almost maturation. It’s like maturing us. Right. It’s spiritually, emotionally maturing in that a maturational process. I see it as, I guess the more I regularly. More mature. I feel like I am. I don’t know. Doesn’t it. Don’t you feel?

And we talk about that, that feeling of building mastery, right? With your emotions and letting go diffusing from sort of the gripping of light. It’s really, it feels really good. And what I love about DBT, what you do and what you’ve done in many of your groups. Are you still running the groups at west side?


No, actually we are in Sherman Oaks in Sherman Oaks. So I’m sure my notes. Yes it’s okay. I used to be on the west side. That’s why you’re thinking now. So now it’s so well, so we’re called valley DBT and we ran groups. Actually, some groups are on zoom because many adults are like fully embraced the no commute lifestyle.

So fine. We do therapy with this dialectical lens, or we can call it like a language you’re learning to speak a certain language. Yes. Yes. And the language is like, give me an example of speaking a new language and how, you know, even how anyone could benefit from that. Well, should I tell you my shower story?

Yes. I would love to hear your shower story, Wendy. Thank you. Okay. You saw my bathroom. I remodeled this bathroom. Oh my gosh. I wish we had the footage and I have to say, Wendy, you not only are a stellar clinician and psychotherapists, but your design eye is really extraordinary. This bathroom is. So like on trend interior design wise, and just the tile, the wallpaper, you describe it, go into it.

Well, the wallpaper is this designer named Poplar sin. Hollick it’s, it’s all black and whites. It’s a white wallpaper, which is black sketches of hands all over it. And so if you Google hands, wallpaper by pop Pollock. Okay. That’s great. Okay. I loved it was so, so unique. It’s that mid-century contemporary fusion, right?

Absolutely. 1964 mid century. So anyway, the story is that I redid the shower and bought the tile from Italy. And of course, you know, anytime you do something for the first time, I didn’t buy enough tile. No. And this was your first bathroom remodel because this was yes. When you bought the house before the pandemic, you attacked this.

Okay. I relied on the tile guys or the contractor to say like how much I needed. I said, well, this, he said, well, measure this, measure, this. And I went and I, and I did it myself. I’m like, well, I’m going to do this muscle. And they did what they ordered and then the guys are tiling and they run out and there’s this much left.

They get up to a square about two by three, and this is ordered from Italy. So this is not like you’re going to home Depot. Okay. Back to the nice title it’s called Westside tile and Canoga park. And I go back and I’m like, well, I just need like four boxes of tile. And they say, well, they don’t make that tile anymore.

Oh no. Oh no. Okay, this is where the DBT comes into play. What, what, what did you experience one day where you in fight or flight or panic? Let me just tell you, like, I’m sure you can understand, like these things feel, so it felt I was so angry. Look like, why didn’t you tell me to, or I needed certain amount of extra and why didn’t the D why didn’t the tiled place?

Like I told them that they like so many like questioning, and then we talk about this concept in DBT of radical acceptance. Right. And not in acceptance over this tile being like, I was like, why, why did you, I was so upset. Right? And here I am. And you want to just see what, who is to blame in some way, like who who’s going to take responsibility for this, this hap yup.

Let’s use all my interpersonal skills about attending to the goal without ruining and burning this bridge. Cause I want to be like, I’m not gonna give you a bad Yelp review. Right. You can see how it plays out. Right? Well, that’s, that’s just the DBT. That’s the reg, that’s the part where you’re wanting to blame.

You’re wanting to go into your you’re feeling. The rage you’re wanting to like it’s catastrophic. I waited, oh my gosh. Like I never did what happens. I have to rip out all the tile. It’s going to cost me 5,000 million dollars to do this. And I hate, and then I would have a friend come in and start to say, W what if you did something really interesting with that empty patch?

Like what if it became a design opportunity and here’s the dialectic coming in? I love it. And so I was like, okay, Wendy, you teach dialectics. You need to hold the dialectic of like, let’s look at all the possibilities here. So like, I. You know, the brain wants to connect to an outcome. And I just refused to do that until I was like, well, we’re living with this problem.

I’m living with this problem. And I mean, it seems silly, like, but you know how these things are like little, it’s like a rock in your shoe. You’re like, First world problems. Yes. My tile who cares, but it’s a rocket like, right? Yeah. Not a time. No, but that’s a lot of time and money. And you already had this beautiful shower almost.

It was just in the shower stall or the whole flooring, just one wall, one patch of the shower. Yeah, well, it also triggers a lot of other things, you know? I don’t know. I think it just, like you’re saying it’s yeah. First world problems, but you know, Underestimate when you’re going through a project like that and spending a lot of money.

And I had a vision and I, if this was white tile, like the shower was always very hard to make it something different. Right. So I put a quote up there. Is it like, what do I anyway? So you can see all the skills at play, like having to, to work this out. And I went into the skill of problem solving and decided, no I’m going to not give up on this tile.

And I enlisted the help of some tile person to call all over the country and find a hidden box of tile. And they found it in San Francisco and someone found it on the warehouse floor. There were two boxes left, and then they shipped him to me. Okay. Are you kidding me now? I would have been like jumping for joy that you did your work.


You did your research. So then you cut, you said, okay, let me just put this in perspective. Let me, let me work through the problem. You said, okay. Instead of, like you said, wanting to hold people responsible, like who did this, you did creative solution focused apps now. Well, I balanced I’m like, I can accept it.


There’s like a continuum of acceptance versus change. And I accept it. What does it look like if I problem-solve I’m over into the change territory. And so I worked, I’m like, I’m not going to give up on the change side. I’m going to look at both. And then in, within the change dialect side of the dialectic, I found the tile, right?

So you can hold acceptance, which. In the change in the change pot, because sometimes we do still need to change. You didn’t need to accept it at that point. Not yet. I wasn’t yet. And I didn’t burn the house down at west side tile. I’m sure they told him don’t love me, but I didn’t like go nuts over there and I didn’t, you know, I just, I just kind of stayed center.


Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And you really just, even in. You know, I do somatic experiencing trauma work, just looking at your physicality of like zenning out and you know, you’re, you’re you look so Zen in your back, your backdrop is so Zen that you zenned out and you were so diligent in your research and you happen to find these two boxes in a warehouse.

And there you go. And so in the change part, being creative, not staying in the blame game or the catastrophic thinking or the catastrophic thinking, but using your mind, your wise mind. Yeah. Mindfulness skills, mindfulness skills to start to evaluate the different options and not acting on your impulse.

Either. Oh yeah. The impulse to like tantrum and be like, I’ll say about something like that and keep it in perspective and the bigger picture of life nobody’s dying here over some tea. So you do have to keep it in perspective, but these things add stress to the pile of other life stressors. Like, you know, you.

Other heavy things happening in life. And then you got, you know, your pet is sick and going to the, or you’re gave something with your kids, or there’s a comprehending tile thing happens. And in DBT we measure, we’re constantly mindful of our stress level on a scale. Okay, great. Great. Great. If you’re up here with vulnerability.

And L and life stressors, a little tile thing can sort of put you over the edge. Right? Didn’t do that. Thank God, because I use all my skills to bring myself to the ground, but like to ground myself, but yeah. Think about a remodel. People say what? Death, divorce taxes and a remodel. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You just said it right there.

It can be the tipping point of a lot of relationships. A lot of. You know, and look, and sometimes it’s what shows how people are unified yet. It is, it can be, it’s a major stressor, like you’re saying, well, and my, my, this is just a side note, but my saying with any kind of project around the home is it’s never going to go the way you think.

And if it does, then you’re celebrating. You’re like what doc? They did the job. Right. And it works and it looks good. What. When do I love it because it’s so true. You can not expect everything to go as like, you have your vision, but you have to roll with being creative as to, it might end up very different.

And if it does, it’s like hope, expect to not, but hope for the best. Yeah. Yeah, but I think you bring up such an important point in any real estate buy or remodel as well as just how life we can’t control that outcome. And I loved how you said in DBT. We want the outcome. Yeah. We have a goal. We have a light, what we call a life worth living goal.

Okay. A life worth living goal being really clear about what you want your life to look like. What does a life worth living? Look like for you concretely, not how concretely, what does it look like and set, and how do I have to act and how do I have to behave to get that? Yes. And how do I have to behave?


And I love how grounded that approach is in terms of, we do want to have a vision and a goal, and we do have to enact certain steps to get there. And what DBT does it really provides? Really, really important skillset of emotional regulation, holding the dialectical, using our wives mind and a non-judgemental stance.


Yes. Communicating effectively with others so that you can maintain your relationships. I find that most people have a relationship goal, whether it’s. You know, build a community of people, maintain my friendships, find a relationship, find a husband, whatever it is, or wife it’s, there’s, there’s always a relationship goals.

So DBT addresses that too. Yeah. Which is yeah. Yeah. Which is the hardest in the sense that we don’t have control of where people, places and things. So our relationships. Yes. So to put that intention out there, and I guess if we were, we’re going to have to wind down now, but if let’s say, if you’re working with a contractor, a team, a real estate agent, whatever you were the designer.

Essentially. Yes I was. Yes. Which is great. You were able to hold, I mean, you can hold a lot, one day. I have to say your, your ability to hold creativity and and just such a vast amount of emotions in yourself and life and the people you serve, you know, it kind of doesn’t surprise me that, you know, Mastered this home remodel and such a fantastic way.

I have to say, and I’m saying this to our guests because I haven’t seen this place. And I haven’t seen Wendy in a long time. So I’m definitely an amateur designer, mad respect to the designers out there because now that I stumbled through one, like. I mean, I, yes, I did all their parts of the house too. But man, you could always go into design if you’re, you know, after that I’m like, no, no, no.

Oh no. That’s like a whole career path. Like, I mean, I’m dabbling, but you have your case study almost, right? I think. A gorgeous, gorgeous home. That really there’s so many elements that speak to, you know, what I also do in psycho texture, how you curate your world to feel good in your space and getting a glimpse of all the elements, you know, from outdoor shower to a Vista, you know, you, you really.

Do embrace, like even in all the textures and colors you use, it’s, it’s very, it feels good to see it. It does. And you know, I I’m inspired by you definitely like in my subconscious, like I know each other well, but I’m like, you know, she gets it. She knows that you have to feel comfortable in this space emotionally.

So, yeah. Yeah. And it really. Elicits, such a, such a comfort and beauty and Zen, it feels very Zen and grounded. Just what I’ve got to see through your camera and hope to see it live someday soon. And as we end I just want to sing your praises a little more. Wendy’s clinic group, like you were describing, how would people contact you?


Is the website the best way people can contact you and your group because you have a whole group that’s San Fernando valley DBT. We are the only DBT practice in the valley. Right. So we’re the largest, I think one of the oldest. Right. And so we’ve got five different therapists and yes. Valley dvt.com or F dvt.com.

There’s a few, yeah, just Google valley DBT. Six different groups. We also see teens now, so, oh, thank gosh. That’s great. Because teenagers are right in that that need to regulate. Right. They’re very extreme and dramatic and they’re, they’re a crisis. Right. And actually there’s been sort of a tidal wave of teens that have come in during the pandemic because it’s been so disregulating.

So. Yes. Yes. Well, thank you for opening up your group and your clinic to teams. And that’s true because there has been such a way of, of, of teens needing that. So I just can’t appreciate you any more than, I mean, I just really esteem you as a person, the work that you’ve built and the treating and healing of people that you continue to do and your.


A damn great designer. So, yeah. So thank you. And I think we have some, we have some great tips and golden nuggets of using a highly researched, effective treatment strategy for design and working with people in the design realm. And I think it’s, it’s dire it’s important. And thank you, Wendy, for bringing your wisdom to our podcast today.

See you and talk to you. You’re amazing. Wonderful. Okay. Thank you, Wendy. Definitely. Bye bye.

This is not psychological advice, always consult your licensed healthcare providers, and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information provided in this blog or articles. Our goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower clients regarding mindfulness, design with intention, and experience to create spaces that reflect an elevated psychology of wellbeing.