Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Group for Autistic Adults

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Group for Autistic Adults

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, or DBT, has been widely used to help clients manage issues around emotional dysregulation. DBT utilises validation strategies and dialectical thinking, which can help autistic adults navigate the challenges of living in a neurotypical world and maintain their sense of identity. This program is unique because it utilises a neurodiversity-affirming approach in implementing the DBT modules of Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.

The skills learnt across these four modules may help improve functioning and well-being in areas such as:

  • General mental health
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Social skills, perspective-taking, and the double empathy problem
  • Managing sensory sensitivities
  • Challenges managing intense emotions and hyperarousal
  • Problems with self-identity

What will I learn?

This group program aims to help clients develop mindfulness skills, learn ways to manage challenging emotions, develop adaptive coping skills to manage stress, and learn how to create healthy interpersonal relationships. The program was developed specifically to work with the unique challenges and strengths of autistic clients. The sessions will involve both theoretical learning and experiential skill building in a group setting.

Program Structure:

The program will be run with a group of 6-10 participants and two facilitators.

Session 1: Introduction
Sessions 2 and 3: Mindfulness skills
Sessions 4 and 5: Distress Tolerance Skills
Sessions 6 and 7: Emotion Regulation Skills
Sessions 8 and 9: Interpersonal Skills
Session 10: Summary and Closure

Each session will involve a range of activities as well as revision of the previous week.

Please note: if you chose to take part you are asked to commit to attending all ten sessions. The program is structured and missing sessions will reduce how much you get out of the program.

Who is it for? 

The program was developed specifically to work with the unique challenges and strengths of autistic adults.

When and where will it be held?

The program runs for 10 weeks, meeting weekly on Thursday evenings from 5.30pm-7pm. Exact dates will be confirmed upon enquiry, with a new group to start on January 18th 2024.

The first few sessions will be held in person at the CMI North Melbourne Clinic (Level 1/13 Errol Street, North Melbourne, VIC 3051, and may move online pending participants’ availability.

How much does it cost? 

Fees for the group run on a sliding scale model. Clients who have a referral in the form of a GP Mental Health Care Plan are eligible for a Medicare rebate on the cost of sessions. In this instance the sessions are fully bulk-billed sessions with no out-of-pocket cost. Speak to your GP to see if you are eligible. Clients who have private health insurance may be able to claim the sessions through psychology extras. Clients with NDIS funding may also be able to access the program with this funding. It is advised that you confirm this directly with your health fund or plan manager. If you are not able to access the program using any of these funding/subsidy options, there will be a fee of $30 per session.

Who is facilitating the program?

Lead Facilitator

Dr Joseph Allan Sakdalan (he/him) is a registered Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Neuropsychologist passionate about supporting neurodivergent clients and has extensive experience working with this population. Joseph’s considerable background in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy has informed the development of a neurodiversity affirming DBT program for autistic clients. Joseph is an international expert and has presented locally and internationally in mental health, forensic psychology, intellectual disability, neurodevelopmental disorders, and evidence-based treatment for clients with complex presentations.

Assistant Facilitator
Ally Culhane (she/her) is a Provisional Psychologist practicing at the Cairnmillar Clinic under the guidance and mentorship of Dr Sakdalan. Ally identifies as neurodivergent and is passionate about providing affirming and accessible mental health care. She is committed to promoting equity and inclusion for autistic people as both practitioners and consumers of mental health care and the ideal of “Different, Not Less”. She has completed training on working with neurodivergent individuals, participated in focus groups to inform the updated National Guideline for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders, and assisted Dr Sakdalan in developing this program.

How can I/we enrol?

Please contact our clinic admin staff at [email protected] or 1800 391 393. You can also register your interest here.

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