Group Activity – The DBT House

At my internship, I have been given the opportunity to lead the relapse prevention group with our substance abuse clients.  This past week, one of our lessons was to talk about Acceptance in recovery.  Like all units, the manual relied purely on discussion and did not bring in any other type of learning styles.  Having been with this group since August and seeing just how much they enjoyed talking for two straight hours about their recovery (can you sense my sarcasm?), I immediately starting looking into alternative ways to get the clients engaged. Now, we still did spend about half of the time talking about Acceptance and what that meant to our clients, BUT we also did an activity called the DBT house.

In order to do the DBT house with your clients, have your clients draw a house that includes a floor, roof, chimney, door, billboard and have it divided into 4 levels. For an example of what the general outline of the house will look like, please see below:

DBT house

On each part of the house, have them write:

  • Floor – values of their life
  • Roof – things or people who protect you
  • Walls – things or people who support you
  • Door – things you keep hidden from people
  • Chimney – ways you blow off steam
  • Billboard – things you are proud of and want others to see

On each level of the house, have them write:

  • Level One – behaviors you want to change or gain control over
  • Level Two – emotions you want to experience more or in a more healthy way
  • Level Three – things you’re happy about or want to feel happy about
  • Level Four – what is a life worth living?

Very quickly it became clear that this was a project the clients really enjoyed.  Normally, it is difficult to engage the clients in an activity, but with the DBT house, they were all quiet and taking the activity seriously.  I did not ask that the clients share the specifics of what they wrote on their houses, but instead kept the conversation talking about general themes.

We discussed various aspects such as:

  • What was the purpose of this activity?
  • What did the clients learn about themselves?
  • Was there any difference between who they wrote on the roof and who they wrote on the walls?
  • What is the difference between the people who support us and the people who protect us? How do we draw that distinction?
  • What was the hardest part of the activity?
  • What was it like to think of what you would place on your billboard?

Have you ever used the DBT house with clients? How did it work?

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7 thoughts on “Group Activity – The DBT House

  1. my patient’s loved this! Insightful… keep the ideas coming! Powerful tools for us!

  2. I just made one and hope to use it with my clients! It was really fun and helpful in that it allowed me to identify what is important to me.

  3. Wow! Thanks for the idea. This is such a great activity! Thanks for sharing! And thanks to Jeff for sharing the off as well. It is really great!

  4. Reblogged this on Komal Shah's Blog and commented:
    A post which has been super helpful for me while using CBT !

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