What is DBT?

“Dialectical means “the existence of opposites.” In DBT, people are taught two seemingly opposite strategies: acceptance (i.e., that their experiences and behaviours are valid), and change (i.e., that they have to make positive changes to manage emotions and move forward).” CAMH

‘Dialectical’ refers to the ability to hold two seemingly opposite truths in tension; it teaches people how to manage themselves through the many grey areas in daily life with less unhelpful rigidity and more helpful flexibility.  At NowWhat, we have flipped the perspective from DBT as a methodology typically used as an emergency intervention, to a proactive, positive, strengths-focused (and dare we say … fun?) approach, adapted specifically to each age and life stage.

One of the stated goals of traditional DBT is “to define life goals, build self-respect and find peace and happiness. The goal is for the person to lead a life of ordinary happiness and unhappiness.”  (CAMH).  Tolerating the non-preferred, and riding out the normal ups-and-downs of life without letting them overwhelm you, is one of the key skills taught by our DBT-informed groups.

Depending on the situation, DBT skills can be highly intensive and delivered largely one-on-one, or, they can be taught in a group format (groups run for a minimum of 12 weeks and up to 26 weeks depending on the target participants).  DBT is basically a set of social-emotional skills that become handy tools in your Life Toolkit that help you become more effective in your day-to-day life, feel more satisfied, and enjoy connected relationships.  Click here for a list of current group start dates!

The five modules of traditional DBT are:

  • Mindfulness – bringing your whole self to participate in the present moment
  • Emotional Regulation – riding out big feelings and expanding your ‘window of tolerance’ 
  • Distress Tolerance – moving through discomfort, boredom, stress and frustration effectively (without making things worse)
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness – seeing other perspectives, setting boundaries, getting what you need while protecting your important relationships
  • PLUS we have developed an Executive Function module that can be added to our Youth & Teen programs to help with personal and mental organization, leveraging the DBT skills they have learned to create better study and focus habits in their learning environments

NowWhat DBT Groups  build naturally on the skills and concepts learned in the previous course levels, so participants can continue to learn key skills with an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the material (‘spiral learning’).  We begin our youngest participants with a largely body-based approach, helping them to recognize and label their emotions, and learn foundational calm breathing and self-soothing techniques to help them regulate themselves in times of stress.  Each subsequent level adds more in-depth concepts and introduces more cognitive elements as young brains and bodies develop, all the way up to the adult and individual levels, with in-depth exploration of each concept, a full checklist of customizable skills, thought diaries and individual behaviour chain analysis.

Who is it for?

DBT training can benefit everyone as part of a healthy & balanced approach to life!  GPs often recommend DBT as an invaluable tool for those managing challenges such as:

  • ADHD
  • ASD
  • Anxiety
  • Mood challenges
  • Social-emotional difficulties
  • Struggles managing school dynamics

DBT concepts inform our entire collaborative model at NowWhat, and we have created unique DBT-based curriculum for every age and stage (age 6 to adults, including adults with Intellectual Disabilities) that bring the skills and concepts to life in ways that are practical and relevant at every stage of life.  The resources and activities are fun and relatable, led by experienced MSWs and Behaviour Coaches.  We take a customizable approach that includes 1:1 coaching, group sessions and parent/family coaching sessions to form a unique and comprehensive opportunity to learn these essential social, emotional and life skills in a positive and affirming environment.

Why would we join?

The benefits of DBT are lifelong!  Feedback from parents and graduates includes:

  • Leaders have time to really get to know participants over time so they can help them target specific personal challenges

  • Children & youth are supported while they make and maintain friendships with each other throughout the course (making new friends is a common highlight for course graduates!)

  • For children’s groups, constant parent feedback means we can use language and examples that are meaningful to your kids, helping them make real-life connections that make a positive difference to the dynamic in your home

  • For adult groups, the solidarity and community formed with others who are ‘in the same boat’ is a huge benefit
  • Gaining practical skills to have in their toolbox makes people feel more competent in their daily lives and better prepared to handle stress

Meet the DBT team

Mark Thompson [MSW, RSW] (He/him) has extensive experience in providing compassionate, non-judgemental clinical therapy to children, adolescents and adults. He is also highly skilled in supporting those living with neuro-diversities [ADHD, ASD, intellectual disabilities and other exceptionalities]. Mark has leveraged his expertise in these areas to help develop, plan and deliver our unique DBT courses, with a focus on parent coaching.  Mark is also our specialist in delivering  more traditional DBT content 1:1 when required.

Rina Rodak [B.A. M.A Applied Ethics] (She/her) has more than 20 years of experience as an educator, curriculum developer, school administrator, and advocate for children and their families.  Rina is an ADHD & Executive Functioning specialist with advanced training in Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS), SibShop™ workshops, and UCLA PEERS social skills training for young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and social challenges.  Rina is a sought-after Parent Coach and family strategist and provides the parent coaching for our DBT programs.

Nigel Applewhaite [BA (Hons.) Psychology] (He/him) lends his irrepressible energy, enthusiasm and widely varied therapeutic experience to NowWhat as a Behaviour Coach, Executive Function Coach and program facilitator.  Nigel is working towards his Social Work degree and has been working with the DBT modality for several years, as a 1:1 coach helping kids put their skills into practice, as well as bringing the fun and action to the weekly DBT groups delivering group content in his warm, approachable and relatable manner.


 contact us to register for the next intake (see DBT Groups).
DBT can be often be covered by many benefit plans, OAP and SSAH funding (For preschool & early childhood options, see our Pre-DBT
Skill Builders courses).