Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Self-Help: Empower Yourself with Effective Strategies

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive and evidence-based treatment developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for people struggling with emotional dysregulation, borderline personality disorder, and other mental health issues. However, the principles and techniques of DBT can also be applied for general self-help, as it teaches valuable life skills such as mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

In this article, we will discuss the principles of DBT self-help and provide examples of how you can integrate these techniques into your daily life to improve your mental well-being and foster personal growth.

  1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the foundation of DBT and refers to the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. By cultivating mindfulness, you can increase your self-awareness, reduce stress, and manage difficult emotions more effectively.

Self-help example:

One simple mindfulness practice you can try is the "5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique." When feeling overwhelmed or anxious, take a moment to:

  • Identify five things you can see around you.
  • Notice four things you can touch or feel.
  • Listen for three sounds you can hear.
  • Smell two different scents, if possible.
  • Identify one taste in your mouth or take a sip of a drink to create one.

This exercise helps bring you back to the present moment and can provide a sense of calm during times of distress.

  1. Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation involves understanding and managing your emotions in a healthy way. This skill is crucial for maintaining stable relationships, making sound decisions, and achieving overall well-being.

Self-help example:

One helpful emotion regulation technique is "opposite action." When experiencing an intense emotion, identify the action urge associated with that emotion (e.g., anger might prompt you to yell or become aggressive). Then, choose to act in a way that is opposite to that urge. For instance, if you feel angry, take deep breaths and speak calmly instead of raising your voice. By engaging in opposite action, you can effectively reduce the intensity of the emotion and promote healthier responses to emotional triggers.

  1. Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance is the ability to withstand and cope with emotional pain, stress, or discomfort without resorting to maladaptive behaviors. It involves learning how to tolerate distressing emotions and situations without trying to escape or numb them.

Self-help example:

A practical distress tolerance skill is the "TIPP" technique, which stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced Breathing, and Paired Muscle Relaxation. When experiencing overwhelming emotions, use the TIPP method to help bring your emotional arousal back to baseline:

  • Change your body temperature by splashing cold water on your face or holding an ice pack.
  • Engage in intense exercise for a short period, such as running in place or doing jumping jacks.
  • Practice paced breathing by taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on your exhale.
  • Try progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups throughout your body.
  1. Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness involves building and maintaining healthy relationships with others by communicating assertively, setting boundaries, and managing conflicts effectively. These skills can help you navigate social situations more confidently and improve your overall quality of life.

Self-help example:

When faced with a challenging interpersonal situation, use the "DEAR MAN" technique to communicate effectively:

  • Describe the situation factually and without judgment.
  • Express your feelings and emotions about the situation using "I" statements.
  • Assert your needs and desires clearly and confidently.
  • Reinforce the benefits of meeting your request for the other person.

These are just a few ways in which DBT can be used as self-help. 

If you are looking for something to guide you through the process check out our DBT worksheets with over 50 DBT skills ---> https://bit.ly/44xW7rC

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