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DBT Series 1 - Introduction to Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills

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We know I *love* EMDR and seeing the amazing work it can do to help clients. However, I want to do a series on one of my other favorite modalities and the skills it has to offer, DBT. I love to incorporate aspects of DBT into my EMDR sessions with clients too!

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, was created in the 1970’s by Marsha Linehan. The message at the heart of DBT is acceptance and change to help cultivate a life worth living through the use of evidence-based skills. DBT also helps individuals work on acknowledging life’s dialects, or two (sometimes) opposite things existing at the same time. For example, “I want to create change and I’m afraid of change” is a dialect. Both of these can exist at the same time. Although it is considered the “gold standard” for individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (or BPD), DBT may be applicable to and utilized for the majority of individuals.

The DBT skills are broken down into 4 categories: Core Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.

Let’s briefly visit these categories and name some of the skills.

Core Mindfulness

The American Psychological Association defines Mindfulness as the “awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings” (1). In DBT, the goal of Mindfulness for most “is to reduce suffering and increase happiness … and to experience reality as it is” (2). The DBT Mindfulness skills are “the golden thread” that transcend through all of the other DBT skills. DBT Mindfulness skills include Mindfulness What skills, Mindfulness How skills, Mindfulness of Current Emotions, and Wise Mind.

Distress Tolerance

The goal of Distress Tolerance is crisis survival. The Distress Tolerance skills help to “get through a crisis without making things worse” (3). DBT Distress Tolerance skills include ACCEPTS, IMPROVE the Moment, TIPP, STOP, Self-Soothe with the 5 Senses, Radical Acceptance, and Half Smile and Willing Hands.

Emotion Regulation

The goal of Emotion Regulation is “to reduce emotional suffering” (4). However, this does not mean that the skills will get rid of the emotion. DBT Emotion Regulation skills include Opposite Action, Cope Ahead, PLEASE, ABC, and Check the Facts.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

The goal of Interpersonal Effectiveness is “to learn how to be effective in interpersonal interactions, so that [the] interactions with others will have outcomes [you] want” (5). DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness skills include DEARMAN, GIVE, and FAST.


(1) (n.d.). Mindfulness. American Psychological Association. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from,judging%20or%20reacting%20to%20them.

(2) Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed., p. 161). The Guilford Press.

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

(4) Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed., p. 323). The Guilford Press.

(5) Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed., p. 235). The Guilford Press.

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.

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