Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Using Creativity to Effectively Manage a Crisis

by Katie K. May

“We are all broken and wounded in this world.  Some choose to grow strong at the broken places.”
~Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt

Everyone has a creative side and you don’t need to be a skilled artist to engage in the arts.  There are many ways to be creative including drawing, writing, playing an instrument, dancing, designing fashion, woodworking, knitting, cooking, coloring and painting.  Using art as an outlet helps you to put your emotional energy into creativity rather than getting stuck in difficult emotions.

In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), “Creative Outlet” is a skill that is taught to help participants manage a difficult situation or intense feeling.  DBT is a skills-based approach designed to help its participants abstain from self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, act less impulsively and improve their emotions and relationships.  For individuals who struggle with safety issues like suicidal thoughts and self-harm, DBT is the recommended treatment.

DBT is about being mindful of the balance between extremes.  In the case of using Creative Outlet, this is a crisis survival skill meant to be planned and temporary.  This means it is important to mindfully take a break from the situation that is triggering extreme emotions and use your creative outlet  to cope with distress and express difficult feelings in a healthy way.

Taking a break when you are overwhelmed with emotion will help you regroup and decompress so that you can be more effective when you approach the problem. To maintain balance, it is essential that you return to and deal with the crisis once you feel more in control of your emotions.  Trying to avoid a difficult situation forever may make it worse or create more long-term problems.  

The Creative Outlet skill is part of the Distress Tolerance module in DBT.  DBT includes four different modules including Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness.  Beginning this September, Licensed Therapist, Katie K. May will offer a DBT Skills Group for High School Teens and a DBT Skills Group for young adults, ages 18 through 24.  See here [insert link to:

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