Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Louise Horan Gahan 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

I just completed the BSc (Hons) in Applied Psychology at IADT. In the future, I aim to be a researcher and clinical psychologist. My main areas of interest are Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), mindfulness, meaning, somatic psychology, and health psychology. My undergraduate research project, titled 'DBT Therapist Skill Use, Years of Practice, and Meaningful Work: A Correlational Study', is summarised below.

Project Description

Organisational practices associated with meaningful work have become the subject of extensive research in recent years, due to their various benefits to workers’ wellbeing and performance. Although research illuminates numerous benefits of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) training to mental health practitioners, fewer studies have examined: (i) whether isolated components of the DBT model benefit practitioners, and (ii) the relationship between DBT training and meaningful work.

This study aimed to investigate the relationships between DBT skill use, years of DBT practice, and meaningful work in DBT therapists. Using a quantitative, cross-sectional design, an online survey was distributed to DBT therapists internationally using purposive snowball sampling. Data of 74 DBT therapists (76% female, aged between 25 to 67, with a mean age of 41.32) were used for statistical analyses. Participants had between one to 27 years of DBT practice and were delivering either individual DBT therapy (8%), or both individual DBT therapy and DBT skills training group (92%).

Project Findings

Overall, personal DBT skill use in therapists was high, with the emotion regulation and mindfulness skills being used most frequently, followed by the interpersonal effectiveness and distress tolerance skills. Specifically, results suggested that problem solving, mindfully observing and describing emotions, taking care of the body, approaching daily life non-judgmentally, using techniques to maintain healthy relationships, and radically accepting reality could be particularly valuable skills for DBT therapists.

DBT therapists’ meaningful work scores were relatively high compared with the general population. Results suggested that the more DBT therapists utilise the DBT skills in their daily lives, the more likely they are to find personal meaning, purpose, or significance in their work; to believe their work makes a positive contribution to society; and to find broader life meaning through their work. Importantly, DBT skill use predicted DBT therapists’ experiences of meaningful work at any stage of their DBT career, regardless of their experience.

Practical Implications

This study expanded upon previous research which highlighted the benefits of DBT training to mental health practitioners. Specifically, it highlighted the potential value of standalone DBT skills training for enhancing meaningful work in therapists, and which skills could be most useful to therapists receiving DBT skills training. The findings may be applied in organisational settings and future research to improve meaningful work in mental health practitioners. This could enhance the wellbeing of practitioners and, in turn, the treatment quality and outcomes of clients served by practitioners.