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How DBT Finds Us

Susan Snyder Young, LCSW, DBT-LBC™

I often joke with colleagues that DBT “found me.” I was living in Detroit, shortly after graduate school, and I had my sights set on working for a community mental health center in the Southwest neighborhood of Springwells. On the day of my interview, my would-be supervisor let me know that the position I’d applied for was already filled; however, she informed me that a new clinical opportunity was available.

The position was for a DBT-Therapist. I had never heard of Dialectical Behavior Therapy– I agreed anyway. My first day at the organization was also the first day of my comprehensive DBT training under certified clinician, Josh Smith, LMSW. I recall having an array of emotional experiences throughout the course of the week. It occurred to me that I, too, felt emotions profoundly. “I am a super sensor!” I thought, an “ah ha!” moment. The BioSocial Theory also felt deeply personal. Yes, working with people who perceive that suicide may be the only solution to living can feel scary. However, it is a genuine privilege to help individuals make sense of often misunderstood emotions and behaviors typically felt when clients and their families enter into a comprehensive DBT treatment plan.   

It was an honor to assist in the DBT program implementation at Southwest Counseling Solutions under the guidance of my then supervisor Katie Linehan, MS (coincidence?). Not long after the program rolled out, life happened on life’s terms. A pivotal career move became possible for my husband: one so exciting we knew we would head to Washington, D.C. pursuant of our next adventure.  Prior to our move, I sent an email to a practice in Northern Virginia that advertised comprehensive DBT services, asking if I could please come work for the organization. I felt drawn to the DBT spirit and intended to cultivate my theoretical and clinical competency. I believe this part of my story was Divine Intervention: the practice owner and Clinical Director, Dr. Joanna Marino, PhD., DBT-LBC, hired me sight-unseen.

She became a mentor, a friend, and a supervisor so full of passion for her work with DBT-deserving clientele. Working with Joanna further inspired the fire I felt to give myself wholly to this treatment model. The clients who walked through our practice doors, eager to find internal solace and build a Life Worth Living, motivated me day after day.  The spirit of DBT honors my personal core values in such a way that I didn’t feel prepared to let go of new learning opportunities when, not two years later, my husband and I relocated (again) to New York, New York. I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Belinda Bellet, PhD, founder of Brooklyn Heights Behavioral Associates, who has provided a new lens through which I could implement DBT. With her encouragement, many hours of additional DBT training, support and coaching, I listened to my WiseMind and began the application for DBT certification. I feel proud and determined to continue advocating for clients in need of DBT services and to be able to offer the highest standard of treatment available.