Alexandra Mejia, who goes by Sasha, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice specializing in working with complex trauma, dissociation, and personality disorders. She aims to de-stigmatize trauma and personality disorders through her social media platforms and Clinical Residency Program and to spread the word on using DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) to settings outside of therapy.

Show Highlights

​​Coexistence of self-acceptance and change through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) techniques.
Walk ‘the middle path’ to promote awareness through mindfulness practices.
Resolve conflicts by observing internal opposing forces.
Create an inclusive educational environment emphasizing life skills education over traditional teaching methods.
Emphasizes applying mindfulness to daily activities and thoughts.
Distinguishing between reality and thoughts to enhance accountability.
3 Guiding Principles that align coursework with student passions as key principles for schools.
Applying mindfulness skills to navigate various challenges effectively.
“In dialectics, we like to call it walking the middle path. And it’s taking a look at the positives and the negatives at each side of the dialectic. Let’s say one side of the dialectic, there is self acceptance. And who out there doesn’t want to find an experience? Self acceptance. It’s a wonderful thing. We think we are more confident. We are less likely to be down on ourselves and to talk down to ourselves. If we’re self accepting, we’re not going to struggle as much or be as anxious or be as depressed if we’re accepting of ourselves.”
- Sasha Mejia

Dr Chris Jones

Sasha’s Resources & Contact Info:

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Read the Transcript here.

Navigating Life with DBT and Mindfulness

All right. And we’re here with my friend Sasha. Welcome to the show. What led you to figuring out how to regulate your emotions and navigate life?

03:31 Sasha
What a question. I guess it did not start in my childhood, which I wish it did. I probably started more around grad school when I first learned about mindfulness as a clinical technique. And later on I got trained in DBT, which is dialectical behavioral therapy. And with all DBT training, I hope, I believe they require for you to practice the DBT skills that you’re going to be teaching to your clients. So that is really where a lot of my progress got made.

As a student learning something you’d be offering others, am I hearing you correctly? That’s where you learned a lot about this. And so you brought up DBT, this dialectical behavioral training. Can you paint a picture or give us some detail? What’s that really all about?

04:39 Sasha
The main word here is dialectical. That comes from a philosophy of dialectics. Dialectics are basically opposing forces that live in the same moment, in the same space. So good and bad, right, or right and wrong, or change and stability. So all of these concepts that are seemingly opposites are actually living in the same space in our lives all the time, which creates tensions and conflicts. And so dialectical behavioral therapy is actually a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that works dialectically by looking at how these opposing forces can work together, can live together in peace and harmony, and how these conflicts can be resolved in our day to day lives.

I know Ruckus Makers that are leading a school, they’re holding opposing forces and tensions and what I call, two sides of the same coin type of thing all the time. Are there any tools or activities, any resources that you might be able to offer somebody listening when they experience that? The highs, the lows, the great positive things that are happening, but at the same time, the challenges. I’m quite concerned about ruckus makers and educators in general, because they love what they do, but it’s getting increasingly more challenging, and a lot of people want to leave and they think it’s easier somewhere else, which I don’t necessarily believe is true. But back to the original question. Is there anything we could offer them at this moment that might help them hold those opposing forces at the same time?

06:51 Sasah
Yeah, to all those Ruckus Makers out there, definitely mindfulness practice is a big first step. It’s a huge part of DBT. It’s where all of DBT starts and ends, really, with mindfulness practice. There’s this greater awareness of your internal states and external events that trigger those internal states. And by having a greater observation of our internal, external and external worlds, we’re able to process a little bit slower, but internally. Slower internally. So we’re not jumping to conclusions, we’re not snapping. We’re not just kind of going off of the emotion and just doing what the emotion says. We’re slowing things down for ourselves internally and saying, hey, what does this moment really need from me? And what does the situation need for me? And what do the other people around me need for me right now?

That’s really interesting, too, like slowing down. And what do people need from me at this moment? Especially when you’re in it and the thing happens, it’s like I am just so reactive,Jumpy. And so just being able to slow it down, I could see the value in that. And by the way, too. Sasha and I are two years old. We’re almost done. How many months are left? We’re in a two year certification program. Jack Cohn Field, Tara Brach, Tina Clay, and each other, we mentor each other, too, but it’s been absolutely fantastic. So you were talking about awareness. And I think that’s a key component of mindfulness. But if somebody was, like, completely new to all this and hearing, okay, DBT. And my mindfulness is a big part of that, like, how do people do it?

Well, through DBT lens, really. We do consistent training week after week. The way clinical DBT is structured is once a week you have this group where you meet for about an hour and a half. And the group instructors, who are generally either social workers, licensed mental health counselors, psychologists are teaching skills. They always start off with some sort of mindfulness practice, whether that’s a meditation or an experiential mindfulness practice. And those experiential practices could be anywhere from eating a little piece of chocolate in a mindful way. It could be listening to a piece of music. It could be experiencing a texture. It could be playing with clay, it could be creating art. It could be a lot of different things. And these are all things that are really everyday activities, right?

I mean, tying your shoelaces in the morning before you leave for work could become a mindful exercise. Brushing your teeth in the morning or making your bed, all of these things can be experiential mindfulness exercises. And the idea here is that instead of brushing your teeth in the morning and being stuck in your head about, oh, well, next I’m going to shower and, oh, I have to make that call and respond to that email, or I have a meeting with my boss leader. You’re just brushing your teeth. You’re experiencing that activity in the moment without having all of those distracting thoughts in your head. And what happens is you tune into what’s happening and you’re not stressed all of a sudden, for those few moments, you’re not anxious, you’re not panicking, you’re not worrying about what’s going to happen. You’re just, you find a little bit of internal stillness.

That’s available. And that’s available, especially when you’re mindful and you slow things down. The stress, the anxiety, the nervousness, whatever. You were given the example of brushing your teeth before our call out, I was mindfully vacuuming the office. There was whatever, cut the grass, and then there was grass in my office. And so I wanted to clean it up, and I could have made it a rushing thing and like, oh, okay, podcast with Sasha. Or I could just slow things down back and forth and just be focused in that moment. It’s super normal to have this, the stream of thoughts. We all experience that, I think what the abnormal thing and the superpower for you, for a Ruckus Maker listening is when you could just notice the brushing of teeth, the stream of stuff will still appear, but then you can observe and let it go versus getting caught and pulled away with it. Am I missing anything or is there anything you want to add to that idea?

The idea is to really just be present in the moment. If thoughts do fly in, observing those thoughts as they fly in, even though you’re trying to be present in the moment, is part of being present in the moment. I don’t remember who said this, but I remember maybe from a book that I read, someone said that it’s unrealistic to think that you’re not going to have thoughts while you’re meditating or doing something like that because you’re awake, you’re alive, you’re breathing, you’re a human being. So, duh. Of course you’re going to have thoughts.

Absolutely. It’s just a part of the experience. Is mindfulness a part of DBT? Is that how that helps us find middle ground? Or is there something else that we didn’t uncover yet in terms? Or maybe you could define what is middle ground to you? Is it that inner calm or what is it?

In dialectics, we like to call it walking the middle path. And it’s taking a look at the positives and the negatives at each side of the dialectic. Let’s say one side of the dialectic, there is self acceptance. And who out there doesn’t want to find an experience? Self acceptance. It’s a wonderful thing. We think we are more confident. We are less likely to be down on ourselves and to talk down to ourselves. If we’re self accepting, we’re not going to struggle as much or be as anxious or be as depressed if we’re accepting of ourselves. Right? And at the same time, there are downsides to self acceptance because there’s people out there who accept themselves a little too much, possibly. Have you ever experienced somebody like that?

I was saying, I’ve been around those folks. I’ve seen them in the news as well. And these people who have too much of a good thing can be a bit obnoxious or they might be stuck in their ways and saying this is just how I am. There’s no point in trying to change. You need to accept me too, because I accept myself so much. There could be too much of a good thing in this on this side of the dialectic. And then where there’s self acceptance. On the other side, there might be this idea of change. Depending on the person someone might look at change and say, that’s really hard. Change is scary. Change is a lot of work. It could be a bad thing. It could be overwhelming. It also leads to growth. It leads to possibly good things in life.
It can lead to new knowledge, new pathways. We’re looking at this, and it’s. I like to do a visual aid of this with people that I’m working with, which we don’t have right now. But if you can kind of look at those two sides, you kind of start to see that there’s this almost like, cross multiplication thing going on where, like, the negatives on one side or the positives on the other side, like they kind of cross each other. In self acceptance of the negatives, there’s a lack of growth. On the positives of change there is creating growth. And that’s how we kind of help people see these things can work together, can live together. You can accept yourself and recognize where you have some weaknesses and need to grow.

Yeah, that’s a good point. Ruckus makers are always evolving. It’s not that anything’s wrong with you or anything like that. Hey, we want to continue to grow, like you’re saying, even though we might have confidence in that kind of deal. So appreciate you sharing that. There’s a misconception out there that mindfulness is always passive and. And the traditional sort of meditating, sitting on a cushion, I’m sure, comes to everybody’s mind. You mentioned brushing your teeth. What would be some examples of active mindfulness practices a Ruckus Maker could use, even at school?

Oh, I mean, things like yoga, stretching, taking, like wilderness walks, mindful reading. Watching something or listening to something mindfully. Basically, almost anything that you do on a day to day can be done mindfully. Even watching a YouTube channel. Can be done so mindlessly, you just kind of put it on, and it goes and loops around, and you’re just either stuck in your head or, like, busy doing something else at the same moment. You’re missing all the actual content that these youtubers really put so much effort in creating. And that’s just for YouTube. But it’s any content that we’re absorbing mindlessly, that we can be observing and observing. Oh, my God. Absorbing mindfully. That’s observing and absorbing. Wow. That’s really hard to say.

Don’t say it ten times fast. That’s for sure.

Even in schools you could do mindful writing, mindful reading, mindful listening, mindful dance, mindful choir, mindful theater, mindful sports ball in all contests.

I think essentially, you could do anything mindfully, right. And it’s about the attention that you bring to it. And again, not getting caught up by all those. All those thoughts. What I really challenge the Ruckus Maker listening to do is that mindful movement, whether that’s yoga or qigong or some kind of stretching or even just walking, whether that’s outside in nature or around your campus, just because we tend to be sedentary so get up and move. And that’s. That’s an important piece. Sasha, I’m enjoying our conversation. I think we’ll pause here just for a second to get some messages in from our sponsors.

We come back, what we’ll talk about is reality versus thoughts and how that relates to accountability. Okay. And we’re back with my friend Sasha, and we’ve been talking about DBT and leading and living in a mindful way. So, Sasha reality versus our thoughts and how. How does that relate to accountability?

Oh, well a lot of people that I work with and talk to think that their thoughts have some sort of power over them. And to some extent, yes, thoughts do have power over us. Mainly they have power over our physical sensations, over our emotions, but they don’t have power outside of us unless we choose to give them that power. Thoughts are not real. Thoughts are just thoughts. If I asked you to think about a blue bear or a purple lion, you can think and imagine these things, but they’re not going to just come into fruition and jump out of your mind and into your office. That’s not how our thoughts work. And the majority of our thoughts aren’t even purposeful. We are not purposefully creating those thoughts. Once in a while, we will start thinking, well, what should I do in this situation? Let me think this through, like, one step at a time. But most of our thoughts are created by prior experience and knowledge. These are automatic thoughts that can be really anxiety perfect provoking. It could be fear provoking, anger evoking. And what happens is these automatic thoughts are happening at the back of our minds and they’re saying to us, oh, did you turn off the oven before you left? Did you lock the door? Did you answer that email? Did you give them the right information?

You need to do all of these things and it’s happening at the back of your head, or you’ll go to an event, come back from it, and then your automated thoughts are saying, oh, did I say the wrong thing? Did I make a fool out of myself? Does this person like me? So it’s different content depending on the person and situation. But these aren’t created by us and these aren’t real things. Because 99.999% of the time we do turn off the oven. And we do lock the door and we do fine at events. We don’t blow up any secrets or insult anybody. But our thoughts are running wild because evolutionarily speaking, we evolved to be uber conservative in terms of what might put us in harm’s way. .

So we kind of have to retrain our brain to start thinking differently, a little bit more realistically or positively even.

So what would you say are next steps for schools who want to start integrating this on campus?

A great question. And there’s. There’s so much research on DBT over the last. Well, I mean, since the 1980s, really, since Marsha Linehan first started this program. And it’s got glowing reviews from researchers. There’s a type of DBT called DBTC for children specifically, which has also a lot of backing to it clinically. And current research is trying to go into the ways of, like, how can this be implemented in schools? But honestly, they’re not doing a great job. And these are some really low quality studies that don’t take the entire DBT program into account. They’re not implementing it in the way that it’s supposed to be. These are like eight week studies versus six month studies. That just doesn’t make sense. And so their results haven’t been great.
What I would say is implementing DBT in schools could start in elementary school and it could be a class once a week. That all students get. I say all students. It should be a core for all students throughout their educational careers in elementary and middle school and high school. That really makes sense and relates to this, to the kids. And there’s this complexity because within working DBT into schools, teachers need to be aware of DBT and how it’s implemented and use the skills as well themselves as they expect the students to. Because if they’re not knowledgeable about the skills, then how can they help the students implement it, right? It’s the difference between a teacher sending a student to the principal and a ruckus maker saying, hey, why don’t we all, as a class, take some breaths together, right. Because they’re knowledgeable, and there’s another layer of complexity where we also, to some degree, want to get parents involved. And parent involvement can make a tremendous impact on our kids’ development, whether they’re students or neighbors or whatever. Our own kids, if parents are also becoming knowledgeable in these skills, can also support their kids and our students. So you have this, like, sandwiching effect where kids go to school. Ruckus Makers who are already, like, DBT trained help the students learn and practice DBT in school. They send some information to the parents, back when the student goes home, and parents read the information, and they’re able to work with that as well with their kids and with themselves. Now, obviously, that’s really difficult to do because not every parent is going to be able to read that information. Not every parent is going to want to read that information, and that’s where things get a little muddy. But the idea that kids spend a good 8 hours five times a week in school is a good thing because at least that portion of their day can be really regulating, and it will help them build identity development, regulate their emotions better. And it’s even been shown that bullies, right, who get DBT training and the skills work actually decrease their bullying behaviors in school. Implementation could be tricky, but if it’s done correctly, I think it can really turn this world in general around. Because imagine if you learned mindfulness skills since you were, let’s say, seven or eight or nine, and this was like a class that you took once a week throughout your school career, how different would we all be right now?

Yeah, that’s a good point and a good question for the ruckus maker. Listening to ponder. Sasha, if you could put one message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would your message be?

Just breathe.

If you were building your dream school, you weren’t constrained by any resources. Your only limitation was your ability to imagine what would be the three guiding principles. Building your dream school.

Oh, three guiding principles. I probably start with the idea that it would be all inclusive. Everybody would be welcomed and respected no matter where they’re from, who they are, who they identify as.So, teachers, ruckus makers, principals would take this really a lot more seriously than I hear some reports from some of my clients. Clients. The bullying, the shaming. The cyber issues that are going on would be taken a lot more seriously, taking a role of not just I’m teaching you this content, but I’m teaching you life. I think schools really left behind life learning a long time ago, and I think we’re really missing that from our kids’ education nowadays. Whether it’s a DBT class or a gardening class or homemaking or car repair or whatever. Cleaning, cooking, all of these life things that a lot of kids don’t know how to do when they’re leaving for college nowadays. For real. And number three, just really focusing more on what the students’ passions are and leading coursework through passion, because the majority of kids’ complaints about school is. It’s boring. I don’t care about this stuff. Finding a different way to motivate students to learn the stuff that they really don’t care to learn.

We covered a lot of ground on today’s show, Sasha, of everything we discussed. What’s the one thing you want a ruckus maker to remember?

You know what? Just using those mindfulness skills. Just take a breath when you’re frazzled during the day. Just breathe



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