My Life is Painful. How Can I Find Happiness?

Mahaffey Brittain Mahaffey, PhD
Director, Stony Brook Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Program
Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Research Scientist
DBT-Linehan Board Certified Clinician
Stony Brook Neurosciences Institute

Many people who feel like life is crushing down on them have tried countless other treatments without relief. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a science-backed therapy that takes a wholistic approach to helping people develop a life that’s less painful and really worth living. It focuses on finding balance and getting unstuck from extremes.

What does dialectical mean?
The “D” in DBT stands for dialectical and involves thinking and acting in ways that embrace life’s challenges and contradictions rather than being overwhelmed by them. A dialectical approach focuses on developing the ability to identify and look at different viewpoints, challenge your assumptions, and balance between your changing outlook and accepting situations as they are to create new perceptions and perspectives to help you move forward and lead a happier life. The goal is to enable you to learn emotional life skills and make sustainable changes in your daily life.

Who can benefit from DBT?
DBT has been demonstrated to be effective in helping people who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, who are working through problems including:
• Overwhelming emotions
• Impulsive behavior
• Self-injury
• Suicidal thoughts
• Substance use
• Eating disorders
• Trauma
• Challenging relationships filled with conflict or arguments

How do I choose a DBT specialist?
When you’re leading an emotionally painful life, it’s important to be treated by a professional who has the proper training. Otherwise, it can be frustrating and uncomfortable. No one wants to leave a session feeling misunderstood and judged. My team and I are all intensively trained DBT therapists. This means we’ve all completed a 16-week long, intensive training program followed by a year of monthly consultations with a DBT trainer. We value connecting with each person we treat and developing personalized strategies to help them to reduce their emotional suffering, improve relationships, and find balance in their lives. We also recognize that while you may not have caused the problems in your life, you still have to fix them.

Which DBT program is right for me?
At Stony Brook, we offer five options. Each includes meditation and mindfulness exercises and a classroom structure with a lesson plan. We also offer individual therapy and coaching calls to help you practice using coping skills in the real world.
• Level I DBT Skills Groups — similar to taking a class rather than traditional group therapy. For adults 18 years of age and older who are new to DBT or need a refresher.
• Level I DBT University — an abbreviated version of our Level I skills groups aimed at adults aged 18 to 25.
• Level II DBT Graduate Groups — emphasizes skills for maintaining treatment gains. Open to graduates of our Level I program.
• Multi-Family DBT for Adolescents — designed for tweens and teens ages 11 to 17 and their caregivers.
• Radically Open DBT (RO-DBT) — for people with problems of over-control such as autism spectrum disorder, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, perfectionism and anxiety problems.

Why Stony Brook?
The Stony Brook DBT program was established in 2017 and is designed to improve quality and access to care for people with more severe mental health problems who haven’t found other forms of therapy helpful. Our intensively trained DBT experts offer a wealth of experience from our outpatient child psychiatry, outpatient adult psychiatry and inpatient psychiatry units. And our program is the only full, comprehensive DBT program on Long Island that accepts most insurance plans.

For a consultation with a Stony Brook certified DBT expert, call (631) 632-8657. 
neuro.stonybrookmedicine.edu/dbt