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DBT Series 7 - IMPROVE the Moment

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As a refresher, the goal of Distress Tolerance is crisis survival. The Distress Tolerance skills help to “get through a crisis without making things worse” (1). The next skill we will learn about is called IMPROVE the Moment.

While the ACCEPTS skill helps with distracting when appropriate, IMPROVE the Moment is a great skill to utilize when distractions might not be the best time or available to you. IMPROVE the Moment helps you stay in the moment with the crisis and can help you get through it effectively.

Time to break this skill down.

IMPROVE the Moment is an acronym that stands for:

  • Imagery
  • Meaning
  • Prayer
  • Relaxation
  • One Thing at a Time
  • Vacation
  • Encouragement

I - Imagery includes using mental pictures of a real or imagined place that creates feelings of calm, joy, or even neutrality. You can even use Imagery to imagine yourself coping through the situation effectively and the skills working.

M - Meaning encourages us to find the takeaways or lessons from the crisis or experience despite everything that is going on and what emotions may be coming up. Meaning helps us see and make the best out of a situation. To practice this, try asking yourself, “What can I get out of this event?”

P - Prayer invites us to open ourselves up to a higher power or something bigger outside of ourselves. You can still practice Prayer even if you do not identify with a specific religion or faith. Whether it’s to Allah, God, or your own Wise Mind, you can “pray” to just about anything or anyone that brings you comfort.

R - Relaxation includes engaging in activities that can ease the pain or distress of the moment. This can include guided body scans, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, drinking a warm beverage, or having a snack. Relaxation encourages us to “take a time out.”

O - One Thing at a Time is very similar to the Mindfulness How skill One Mindfully. While moving through the crisis or situation, take it one thing at a time, one step at a time. As I tell my clients, baby steps forward are still forward.

V - Vacation refers to giving yourself a time-limited break. This can look like taking a nap or laying down for 10 minutes. Making and having a nourishing snack. Whatever it is, be sure to set a specific amount of time for the Vacation so you can come back to the crisis or situation.

E - Encouragement involves the use of phrases or affirmations. Such phrases or affirmations can include, “I can do this!” or “I’ve done this before, I can get through this now.” If these aren’t your jam, try asking, “What would I tell my best friend if they were in this situation?” Once you have this answer, encourage yourself in the same way.

Want to hear more about the DBT IMPROVE the Moment skills? Check out this free video from DBT-RU to hear more! (2)


(1) Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed., p. 420). The Guilford Press.

(2) [@DBTRU]. (2020, December 8). IMPROVE  [Video]. YouTube.

Reminder: these blog posts are meant to be purely educational and/or entertainment tools and do NOT replace psychotherapy and/or other medically necessary treatments.

Are you ready to take the first step?