Do emotions control your life?

Are You An Adult Who:

  • Has intense, extreme, and painful emotions?
  • Behaves in ways that seem extreme or make you feel out-of-control, only to regret it later?
  • Feels stuck, tired, or discouraged regarding your ability to fix or change it?
  • Needs to know that it isn’t “just” you- that you aren’t the only one?
  • Wants concrete and practical suggestions for solving emotional problems?

Intense emotions have the ability to disrupt your entire life, control your behavior, and make you feel like you can’t control yourself. They can make you feel helpless! They can take away your ability to set goals, direct your life, and go after the things you want the most.

Groups and classes reduce painful and extreme emotions by introducing powerful, well-researched content in the form of weekly homework assignments. Groups offer a peer community with reality based feedback, built-in validation, emotional problem solving, wise decision making, and practical options for what to do in times of intense emotional distress. Being part of a group means being open to reciprocal vulnerability and shared experiences and provides its members with a sense of belonging, participation, intimacy, and personal growth.

Why do it alone? Validation + Problem solving + Perspective taking = Wisdom. Because real life learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum!

If you are the parent of an Emotionally Extreme Teen please be aware that as of August 2020 I am no longer offering teen groups or parenting groups.  If you are an adult looking for services, keep reading.

Problems you experience

Group can help

Emotions control your actions

You control your actions

Feel overly emotional and wonder if it is “just me.”

Obtain valid and realistic feedback from a peer community

Become self-critical or experience others as critical

Increase compassion for self and others

Painful emotions make you feel trapped

Increase options for handling painful emotions

You don’t understand how or why you feel the way you do

You are clear about your feelings and what they do for you

“Fall apart” when things get intense

Rehearse and implement adaptive responses

Behave in ways that you regret

Identify and behave according to your values

Reality is painful

I operate under the assumption that life is often accompanied by painful emotions. It is inevitable, realistic, and understandable to be sad, angry, hurt, and disappointed in certain situations. Often people try to suppress, inhibit, minimize, downplay, or ignore emotional pain. Sometimes this can show up in the form of sarcasm, avoidance, withdrawal, personal attacks, retreat, becoming overly chatty, avoiding conflict, keeping the topic on non-emotional subjects, making light of a painful situation, pretending everything is okay, critical self-attacks, or intentionally escalating an argument. Sometimes people try to numb out what they feel through drinking, overeating, vomiting on purpose, promiscuous sex, sleep, becoming extremely critical of others, or getting overly involved in their work.

Ultimately, these behaviors have costs and consequences that are less than ideal, do not eliminate painful emotions in the long run, and lose their effectiveness over time. These behaviors also can have unwanted consequences and may result in further isolation and despair. Continuing to do these behaviors sometimes results in short term relief, which makes them difficult to stop.

Most of the time, people who attend my groups believe that they can control emotions by getting rid of them, pretending they do not have them, or downplaying what they feel. In addition, many people believe that painful emotions cause their distress. While there are skills to reduce painful emotions, believing that emotions cause distress frequently distracts people from figuring out what causes (and controls) their emotions. As I stated earlier, painful emotions often accompany the journey through life, and will show up from time to time.


What are the groups like? (Currently all groups are online)

All groups start with a mindfulness exercise to quiet the mind, focus attention, and become more grounded and settled into the moment. Group members review homework worksheets and assignments based on the current syllabus, which is re-written periodically depending on the current needs of the group. All group members track data to assess intensity, frequency, and duration of presenting problems as part of their treatment plan. As trust and cohesion develops, members are encouraged to share more spontaneously, to ask for what they need from group, and to have more independence in choosing group content. Worksheets are based on handouts from Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Functional Analytic Psychotherapy. All of these treatments have scientific evidence showing treatment effectiveness (more can be found on Books I Recommend).

My groups offer a unique means of service delivery in which real life consequences, real life connections, and in-the-moment experiences of how we “hide” among people can be brought under direct observation. This allows us to experiment with new behaviors, take emotional risks, let people in, move through painful life situations, and to grieve our losses. It allows us to practice and rehearse ways of being confident and take actions consistent with our values. It allows us to be exposed to a variety of perspectives, obtain reality-based feedback, and feel that we are not alone in our struggle. Groups help us to give and to receive, to participate meaningfully, to show up with who we really are, and to have an influence in our smaller and bigger communities.

“I’ve been in therapy for years and years, and in the little time I’ve been in this group I’ve made the most changes in my life.” (Adult group member).

Am I a good candidate for these groups?

This is for you if you are able to do the following:

  • Complete the pre-screening requirements, including assignments, treatment plan, and informed consent process
  • Make a minimum three-month commitment
  • Show up, do the work, and use the resources provided
  • Work towards common goals in a small group setting
  • Be sensitive to how your behavior impacts others
  • Experiment with alternative and more effective means of responding to painful life situations

Who are the people in my groups?

  • Educated professionals who either work, are retired, or take care of their families and live independently 
  • In the general age demographic 22 plus to 60 plus;  group cohesion/ age is taking into consideration when forming or joining new members to groups. Most referrals cluster in a female 30-something demographic. 
  • Live in Massachusetts 
  • Can sustain a longer term commitment of several months to a year or more

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

I am a white female who has been made aware of systemic racism and I have taken several professional trainings to increase awareness regarding racial disparities. I work hard to integrate feedback to improve my services. I try to take into consideration variables related to inclusion, belonging, and demographics (gender, persons of color, life situation, parenting) when I add people to groups and try to create space for clients to engage in meaningful and beneficial ways. 

The groups I offer are thoughtfully formulated. My time, energy, and investment is about getting people in the door in a way that feels warm and inviting. Members of my groups tend to be open, share vulnerabilities, grow, be challenged, and find a strong sense of belonging. Without the thoughtful touches that are my personal investment in my group members, my groups would not be what they are today.

Here is a link to the monetary fees.

Check out Suggestions And Advice

"Crisis" is the term used in DBT, but some people find themselves struggling to identify if they are actually in
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Join me on my YouTube channel DBT Skills with DrReneeHoekstra to identify some of the barriers to figuring out what
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Accept that pain will come your way. The more you pretend that pain is not there, the worse it will
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We live in a society in which persons tend to dichotomize responsibility, resulting in blaming, scapegoating, and finding fault. When
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Sadness is one of those ordinary, human, connecting, important emotions. Lately I’ve been reflecting on how sadness is expressed in
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What is Dialectics? Dialectics is based on the idea that two opposing concepts can both be equally true. One truth
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More suggestions and advice >>

If you are still undecided, you can

Purchase Dr. Hoekstra’s Primer on the Application of Behavior Therapy for Group. This is a special paper I wrote specifically for my group clients. It is a user-friendly guide to help people understand the application of Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills, how group therapy works, and how the concepts and theory can be applied a case example that is probably just like you. Sections include The Causes of Emotions, The Predictability and Control of Emotions, What This Has to do With DBT Skills, Emotions as Part of the Package Deal, When Your Emotions Are Too Much In Group, and Putting It All Together: FAP, Group, and You. This introductory paper is now mandatory reading for incoming clients.

Purchase The Emotional Extremist’s Guide to Handling Cartoon Elephants. This is a book I have authored and illustrated to help people with extreme emotions. See if the book is useful to you.

Purchase the DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. This is the required workbook for the group and includes material, worksheets, and handouts that we use in the group. The book will give you a peek preview of some of the group assignments.

You can also check out several videos on my YouTube Channel, DBT Skills with DrReneeHoekstra, such as this experiential clip on how to press the pause button.

If you are ready to get started with group, contact me by e-mail or phone (617-981-5079) to arrange a good time in which I can call you back.