Do emotions control your life?
- Have intense, extreme, and painful emotions?
- Behave in ways that seem extreme or make you feel out-of-control, only to regret it later?
- Feel stuck, tired, or discouraged regarding your ability to fix or change it?
- Need to know that it isn’t “just” you- that you aren’t the only one?
- Want concrete and practical suggestions for solving emotional problems?
Intense emotions have the ability to disrupt your entire life, control your behavior, and make you feel like you can’t control yourself. They can make you feel helpless! They can take away your ability to set goals, direct your life, and go after the things you want the most.
Groups and classes reduce painful and extreme emotions by introducing powerful, well-researched content in the form of weekly homework assignments. Groups offer a peer community with reality based feedback, built-in validation, emotional problem solving, wise decision making, and practical options for what to do in times of intense emotional distress.
Why do it alone? Validation + Problem solving + Perspective taking = Wisdom. Because real life learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum!
Problems you experience
Group can help
Emotions control your actions
You control your actions
Feel overly emotional and wonder if it is “just me.”
Obtain valid and realistic feedback from a peer community
Become self-critical or experience others as critical
Increase compassion for self and others
Painful emotions make you feel trapped
Increase options for handling painful emotions
You don’t understand how or why you feel the way you do
You are clear about your feelings and what they do for you
“Fall apart” when things get intense
Rehearse and implement adaptive responses
Behave in ways that you regret
Identify and behave according to your values
Reality is painful
I operate under the assumption that life is often accompanied by painful emotions. It is inevitable, realistic, and understandable to be sad, angry, hurt, and disappointed in certain situations. Often people try to suppress, inhibit, minimize, downplay, or ignore emotional pain. Sometimes this can show up in the form of sarcasm, avoidance, withdrawal, personal attacks, retreat, becoming overly chatty, avoiding conflict, keeping the topic on non-emotional subjects, making light of a painful situation, pretending everything is okay, critical self-attacks, or intentionally escalating an argument. Sometimes people try to numb out what they feel through drinking, overeating, vomiting on purpose, promiscuous sex, sleep, becoming extremely critical of others, or getting overly involved in their work.
Ultimately, these behaviors have costs and consequences that are less than ideal, do not eliminate painful emotions in the long run, and lose their effectiveness over time. These behaviors also can have unwanted consequences and may result in further isolation and despair. Continuing to do these behaviors sometimes results in short term relief, which makes them difficult to stop.
Most of the time, people who attend my groups believe that they can control emotions by getting rid of them, pretending they do not have them, or downplaying what they feel. In addition, many people believe that painful emotions cause their distress. While there are skills to reduce painful emotions, believing that emotions cause distress frequently distracts people from figuring out what causes (and controls) their emotions. As I stated earlier, painful emotions often accompany the journey through life, and will show up from time to time.
What are the groups like?
All groups start with a mindfulness exercise to quiet the mind, focus attention, and become more grounded and settled into the moment. Group members review homework worksheets and assignments based on the current syllabus, which is re-written periodically depending on the current needs of the group. All group members track data to assess intensity, frequency, and duration of presenting problems as part of their treatment plan. As trust and cohesion develops, members are encouraged to share more spontaneously, to ask for what they need from group, and to have more independence in choosing group content. Worksheets are based on handouts from Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Functional Analytic Psychotherapy. All of these treatments have scientific evidence showing treatment effectiveness (more can be found on Books I Recommend).
My groups offer a unique means of service delivery in which real life consequences, real life connections, and in-the-moment experiences of how we “hide” among people can be brought under direct observation. This allows us to experiment with new behaviors, take emotional risks, let people in, move through painful life situations, and to grieve our losses. It allows us to practice and rehearse ways of being confident and take actions consistent with our values. It allows us to be exposed to a variety of perspectives, obtain reality-based feedback, and feel that we are not alone in our struggle. Groups help us to give and to receive, to participate meaningfully, to show up with who we really are, and to have an influence in our smaller and bigger communities.
“I’ve been in therapy for years and years, and in the little time I’ve been in this group I’ve made the most changes in my life.” (Adult group member).
Am I a good candidate for these groups?
This is for you if you are able to do the following:
- Complete the pre-screening requirements, including assignments, treatment plan, and informed consent process
- Make a minimum three-month commitment
- Show up, do the work, and use the resources provided
- Work towards common goals in a small group setting
- Be sensitive to how your behavior impacts others
- Experiment with alternative and more effective means of responding to painful life situations
This is not for you if:
- You just want a “quick fix” to get emotional pain to go away
- You would not be able to make a minimum three-month commitment to group
- You are extremely critical and judgmental of the problems other people have
Everything has a cost: You will need to figure out if the cost is truly worth it.
Here is a link to the monetary fees.
If you are still undecided, you can
Purchase Dr. Hoekstra’s Primer on the Application of Behavior Therapy for Group. This is a special paper I wrote specifically for my group clients. It is a user-friendly guide to help people understand the application of Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills, how group therapy works, and how the concepts and theory can be applied a case example that is probably just like you. Sections include The Causes of Emotions, The Predictability and Control of Emotions, What This Has to do With DBT Skills, Emotions as Part of the Package Deal, When Your Emotions Are Too Much In Group, and Putting It All Together: FAP, Group, and You. This introductory paper is now mandatory reading for incoming clients.
Purchase The Emotional Extremist’s Guide to Handling Cartoon Elephants. This is a book I have authored and illustrated to help people with extreme emotions. See if the book is useful to you.
Purchase the DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. This is the required workbook for the group and includes material, worksheets, and handouts that we use in the group. The book will give you a peek preview of some of the group assignments.
If you are ready to get started with group, contact me by e-mail or phone (617-981-5079) to arrange a good time in which I can call you back.