Photography by Keith Norris

The Middle Path

Knoxville therapist Hope Reneau promotes mindfulness

Hope Reneau, Director of The Middle Path IOP, believes that Knoxville is opening up to the idea of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is a therapy central to the mission of The Middle Path, which works with clients who are struggling with major symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or personality disorders. Over the course of six and a half weeks, clients in a group therapy session learn how to incorporate DBT into their daily lives. A prime skill associated with DBT is mindfulness, which is learning how to stay in the present rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.


“What’s happening is that they are missing the present,
and the present is the only thing that we have control over.”

– Hope Reneau, Director of the middle pAth

The recent 2019 report from Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network includes startling statistics that three people die by suicide every day in the state. What do you take from that?

It saddens me, because I know that there is treatment out there. Often there is still a stigma attached to mental illness, but there are treatment options available. It saddens me that our numbers continue to climb, especially in the teen population.

How does what you practice address some of that?

One of the big things about group is that people join and realize they’re not alone because with suicidal ideation people often feel very isolated. They can’t talk to anyone about this; people are scared. They don’t know what to do and it’s very overwhelming. 

What our program does is we completely wrap around the client and their family. We provide effective therapy that is based in mindfulness and skill based on how to live your life with a new set of lenses. Often times people become very polarized in their thinking, so what dialectical behavior therapy does is teaches you how to regulate your emotions more in a middle zone, where you can tolerate the stress and discomfort instead of giving in.

Tell me about the interaction between new members of the group and those who have been attending for a while.

We think of it almost as a Montessori education process, where some of the experienced students would help the clients that are just starting out. The beginner clients have the opportunity to see people who have been here longer and how high functioning they are. The purpose of DBT is to teach you how to be your own therapist.

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