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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Updated on July 4, 2011

DBT - Mindfulness Skills

There are 3 states of mind in dialectical behavior therapy:

  1. Reasonable Mind
  2. Wise Mind
  3. Emotional Mind

Reasonable Mind occurs is when we can think logically and be rational about what is happening around us. Emotional Mind occurs when our thoughts are being controlled by our emotions. For example, if the emotions happen to be fear or anger, they could keep our thoughts so volatile that we could have trouble being reasonable. Wise Mind is the middle ground between Reasonable Mind and Emotional Mind. It is part reason and part emotion. What lets us know we are in Wise Mind is our sense of intuition. The objective of DBT is to obtain the state of Wise Mind.

This can be achieved using the four DBT skills I listed previously:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Distress Tolerance
  3. Emotion Regulation
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness

The core Mindfulness Skills are as follows:

"What Skills":

  • Observe - What this skill teaches us is to sit in the moment without leaving a situation or trying to end an emotion. We allow ourselves to experience, in the moment, whatever is happening.
  • Describe - You take an experience and you say aloud (or in your head) statements about what you are observing. This skill helps us to stay in the present, and does not allow us to get ahead of ourselves.
  • Participate - Participation is about total awareness. It is about being totally present when engaging in an activity. Notice everything about what you are doing and attempt to do it very well.

"How Skills"

  • Non-judgmental Stance - It gives ourselves an opportunity to observe the same things that we always observe in our minds or in our environments or about other people, but open ourselves to thinking about it in a different way. Thus, if I withhold my judgment about what my thought means, but simply observe it, note it, and let the thought move away, I have an opportunity to treat myself and others more gently.
  • One Mindfully in the Moment - The idea of one mindfully is to do one thing at a time.The reasoning behind this is so that you can focus your entire attention on what you are doing and so that you can do your very best at it. Also, you will feel completely present and not fragmented when doing these important things.
  • Effectively - Letting go of a desire to be right and doing what works using DBT skills is being effective.

DBT in a Nutshell

Dialectical means that two ideas can both be true at the same time. Dialectical behavior therapy promotes open-minded thinking. The four core parts of DBT coping are

  • Mindfulness (wise mind)
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness

In DBT the idea is to pick two (just two) things that you want to change or you want to simply work to make it better.

For example, in my DBT skills group the two things I chose were

  1. My anxiety levels
  2. My listening skills (I tend to hear only what I want to hear)

Therefore, I wrote these two things at the top of my diary card (see pictures of examples of diary cards below), so that they would be a constant reminder throughout my therapy.

Being Dialectical means ...

  1. Letting go of "Black and White" thinking
  2. Being more flexible and approachable
  3. Avoiding assumptions and blaming

Some "Do's" however are as follows ...

  • DO move away from "either-or" thinking to "both-and" thinking
  • DO avoid extreme words such as "ALWAYS", "NEVER", and "YOU MAKE/MADE ME"
  • DO find the "kernel of truth" in every side

Now that you know some of the basics, let's continue with some more in-depth learning.

First and foremost,validation is an important part of DBT. What is Validation? Well, validation means telling someone that what he or she thinks, feels,believes, and experiences is real, logical , and understandable.Self-validation is when you quietly reassure yourself what you think and feel inside is real, is important, and makes sense. To self-invalidate is when we spend a great amount of time and energy trying to prove to ourselves and to others that our experiences are real and that they make sense.

Validation is non-judgmental. And, learning to validate is important because it helps relationships work more smoothly, and it calms intense situations, so that problems may be solved. Learning to self-validate is also important because it quiets defensive and fearful emotions so that problems may be solved, and it allows people to let go of the pain, anguish, and exhaustion that constant self-judgment and self-doubt requires.

Some Validation Strategies are as follows:

  1. Focus: Focus on the inherent worth of the person, whether it be yourself or someone else
  2. Observe: Listen carefully to what is said with words, expressions, and body language; if self-validating, honor your experience, by sitting quietly with it; if you are validating someone else, be one-mindful toward him or her, nod, and focus your sole attention on him or her
  3. Describe: Non-judgmentally state the facts
  4. State the Unstated: Note that the presence of feelings and beliefs, etc. that have not already been voiced
  5. Find what is true and valid about the experience

DBT Wise Mind Quiz

view quiz statistics

DBT - Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills:

Interpersonal Effectiveness has three main goals:

  1. Objective Effectiveness: using skills effectively to obtain something you want
  2. Relationship Effectiveness: using skills effectively to maintain or improve a relationship
  3. Self Respect Effectiveness: using skills effectively to maintain your self respect
  • Objective Effectiveness- getting what you want, getting your wishes taken seriously:
  1. Standing up for your rights in such a way that they are taken seriously
  2. Requesting others to do things in such a way that they do it
  3. Refusing unwanted or unreasonable requests and making the refusal stick
  4. Resolving interpersonal conflict
  5. Getting your opinion and point of view taken seriously
  • Relationship Effectiveness- The art of maintaining or even improving an interpersonal relationship while you try to get what you want. When this works well, you will get what you want, and the person may like or respect you even more than before.
  1. Acting in a way that makes the other person want to give you what you are asking for
  2. Acting in a way that makes the other person feel good about you saying no to their request
  3. Balancing immediate (short-term) goals with what is good for the relationship
  • Self-Respect Effectiveness- involves maintaining or improving your good feeling about yourself and respecting your own values or beliefs, while you try to get what you want
  1. Acting in ways that fit your sense of morality
  2. Acting in ways that make you feel competent

The objective behind interpersonal effectiveness is to maintain a balance of priority between the three effectivenesses and to do what is best for yourself all in all.

Sample DBT Coping Skills Card
Sample DBT Coping Skills Card | Source
Dialectical Behavior Therapy; One Example of a Diary Card
Dialectical Behavior Therapy; One Example of a Diary Card


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi there! I am currently attending DBT. Are you still?


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