Videos Help Treat Deaf People

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A new training DVD designed to improve deaf people's access to behavioral health care is now available to clients, and a second is on the way. NIDA-funded researchers Dr. Linda Dimeff and colleagues at Behavioral Tech Research, Inc. in Seattle produced the DVD in collaboration with Dr. Robert Pollard and colleagues at the Deaf Wellness Center (DWC) at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. The DVDs, especially adapted for deaf viewers, train clients in the skills developed in an empirically supported behavioral treatment. Researchers estimate that only about 2 percent of the deaf population needing mental health treatment receive it.

image of two women watching a video screen  Two new training videos portray various scenarios involving dialectical behavior therapy for deaf people. In one scene, deaf clinicians—one experienced in DBT, the other a novice—discuss the treatment while watching a video lecture by the therapy's originator.

The DVDs present dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills being taught by deaf clinicians to deaf consumers. Originally developed by Dr. Marsha M. Linehan for chronically suicidal people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), DBT has been adapted for other difficult to treat populations, including people with co-occurring BPD and substance abuse and patients with eating disorders and, now, by the DWC for the deaf population. The DVDs, which require no prior knowledge of DBT concepts and methods, address the same learning points as the original Linehan films but feature a highly interactive script involving a number of deaf characters communicating in sign language. "In addition to using the videos with clients, many clinicians may find them useful as a means of training other colleagues in DBT skills," says Dr. Dimeff. Both DVDs have English soundtracks and subtitles.

The first recording, Opposite Action: An Adaptation From the Deaf Perspective, tells a story about the appropriate channeling of anger. It refers to the efforts of deaf people to gain passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act as an example of using anger in a positive way. The second film, Radical Acceptance: An Adaptation From the Deaf Perspective, scheduled for release in 2007, focuses on helping patients overcome and let go of negative life experiences, says Dr. Pollard.

As part of its efforts to improve access to mental health care among deaf people, the DWC led the adaptation of DBT materials and methods for this community. Such work goes beyond translation from English to American Sign Language (ASL) and "immerses" the treatment in deaf culture by making the learning points, analogies, and examples used during therapy relevant and appropriate to deaf people. However, the scope of their efforts did not include adapting the DBT skills training films for deaf audiences, which is where NIDA-funded researchers picked up the ball. "These products are an example of NIDA's efforts to improve treatment accessibility for people of other cultures, especially those who do not speak English, and to address drug abuse among people with disabilities," says Dr. Cecelia McNamara Spitznas of the Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research. The DVDs are available for purchase at