Various Therapeutic Techniques of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Various Therapeutic Techniques of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Have you ever encountered a situation in which you felt especially distressed, distracted, or anxious?

All of us can probably say that we have.

But not all of us can say that we have adopted healthy coping mechanisms that are able to help combat these negative or anxious feelings.

One particular coping technique that is commonly employed in therapeutic practices is dialectical behavioral therapy.

Dialectical behavioral therapy, an offshoot of cognitive-behavioral therapy, focuses heavily on methods of stress regulation and relationship improvement through various strategies and techniques.

So that is why we have outlined these four specific therapeutic techniques and principles of dialectal behavioral therapy for you to come to understand:

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Core Mindfulness

One of the most important therapeutic techniques that are utilized in dialectical behavioral therapy is core mindfulness skills.

It is crucial for patients to learn how to live in the present moment and to concentrate on what is truly important in life.

This principle will also enable you to see that you can use your five senses in order to become more aware of your immediate surroundings, which will help you to view life in a way that is unbiased or nonjudgmental.

Developing mindfulness skills is important when it comes to focusing on positive experiences, remaining calm, and avoiding impulsive behavior.

The origins of core mindfulness come from Eastern Zen philosophy in addition to Western contemplative practices.

Through the development of core mindfulness skills, we learn to challenge ourselves to become better and to take control of situations in entirely new ways.

Core mindfulness contains three main states of mind that can be examined and put into practice: our wise mind, logical mind, and emotional mind.

A wise mind is the most sought-after and ideal state of mind that can be considered before making any kind of choice.

It stands as a combination of a logical mind and an emotional mind.

"Logical mind" can be described as the state of mind that we use whenever consulting with factual information or utilizing our rational minds in some way.

It is usually what we use when we complete tasks such as mathematical problems, reading maps, or solving puzzles.

"Emotional Mind," on the other hand, refers to the state of mind that we utilize whenever behaving out of impulse or emotion, such as anger, fear, sadness, or pain.

A wise mind is a place in which both logical and emotional states of mind intersect and help us to properly process events or behave accordingly.

Distress Tolerance

Another therapeutic technique that is employed in dialectical behavioral therapy is referred to as distress tolerance.

This concept can be thought of as your ability to cope emotionally with various distressing events that may happen to you.

Employing such therapeutic techniques involves the full understanding that you have limited control over certain situations more so than others.

It will help you to accept situations that you are unable to change and come to stronger terms with reality.

In addition to helping you deal with reality as it is, implementing therapeutic techniques related to distress tolerance will guide you when it comes to dealing with unmanageable emotions, especially when you're feeling indecisive or overwhelmed.

Some of the most common therapeutic techniques that are specifically related to distress tolerance are the following: self-soothing techniques; TIPP skills; STOP skills (to help avoid impulsive behaviors); making lists of pros and cons; radical acceptance skills; distraction skills; and improving the moment skills.

Self-soothing techniques will most prominently help you to deal with unhealthy behaviors such as cutting or anxiety.

This means that you can feel mentally and emotionally grounded through methods in which you utilize your five senses to attempt to calm yourself during particularly distressing situations.

Another therapeutic technique that is commonly used in DBT is making a list of pros and cons regarding various situations.

This means that you will take note of the positive and negative aspects of whatever situation you may be facing, and then make an informed decision from there.
With the therapeutic technique of radical acceptance, you will simply take note of whatever challenging situation you may be facing with an unbiased or emotionless perspective.

It also means that you will accept whatever cannot be changed about a situation.

Distraction skills entail that you should find ways to positively distract yourself from your negative feelings.

It can involve a simple activity, such as engaging in outdoor sports or watching a movie.

It does not mean that you are avoiding your emotions, but rather, finding healthy outlets to cope with them.

Improve the moment skills hold an acronym for "Improve," which is: Imagery/Meaning/Prayer/Relaxation/One thing in the moment/Vacation/Encouragement."

Essentially, each of these activities involves separating each moment and looking at them as individual moments in time.

It involves seeing the big picture and meditating mindfully on each moment in time.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

The third therapeutic technique of DBT is interpersonal effectiveness.

This principle includes recognizing our strengths as individuals and learning to effectively communicate with others.

Within interpersonal effectiveness, there are three separate components that it is comprised of, which are: objective effectiveness; relationship effectiveness; and self-respect effectiveness.

Within each of these separate components are acronyms that can be associated with each.

With objective effectiveness, the acronym is "DEAR MAN," which stands for: "Describe (Describe the situation as clearly as possible)/Express (Express your emotions as clearly as possible)/Assert (Assert your desires and what your boundaries are)/Reinforce (Reinforce your reasons for communicating in such a way)/Mindful (Be mindful when it comes to your future or present objectives)/Appear (Appear self-assured and like you are sure of what you want)/Negotiate (Have a willingness to negotiate with the other party for further clarity of communication)."

For the therapeutic technique of relationship effectiveness within DBT, the acronym is "GIVE," which signifies: "Gentle (Be very gentle, nonthreatening, and noncombative in the way that you approach the other party)/Interested (Listen and act as though you are interested in what the other party is saying to you)/Validate (Validate the other party by acknowledging their thoughts and words)/Easy (Take it easy by being gentle and calm)."

And lastly, the acronym for self-respect effectiveness is FAST, which means: "Fair (Be fair, nonjudgmental, and unbiased in your discussions with the other party)/Apologize (Only apologize for as much as you need to since you are not responsible for everything that happens)/Stick (Stick to your morals, truth, and values)/Truthful (Be truthful, responsible, and filled with integrity)."

Essentially, the development of all these skills promotes clarity of communication without one having to second guess the other's meaning.

Emotion Regulation 

The final therapeutic technique that is commonly employed in DBT is emotion regulation.

There are three primary objectives in this principle, which are understanding emotion, decreasing the level of emotional vulnerability, and reducing the amount of emotional pain or suffering.

When it comes to properly understanding emotions, it is important to distinguish certain emotions from others.

This involves the labeling of emotion, such as "angry," "frustrated," "anxious," and so on.

Primary and secondary emotions are additionally important to distinguish.

A primary emotion is the initial feeling or reaction to a given situation, while secondary emotions are reactions to these initial emotions.

According to the DBT methodology, it is important to accept our primary emotions without judgment or without forming secondary emotions in the first place.

We should also avoid the myth that there are right or wrong ways to feel in any given situation.

Emotions are subjective, so they should not carry any implications of objectivity whatsoever.

The next principle of emotion regulation, the diminishing of emotional vulnerability, has an acronym that is commonly used: "PLEASE MASTER," which stands for "PL (the treatment of physical health or any other kind of illness); E (eating a balanced diet filled with nutritious substances; A (avoiding alcohol and drug usage); S (regular and consistent sleep cycles); E (consistent exercise routines); MASTER (participating in daily activities that promote positive well-being, a sense of mastery, competence, and healthy competition).

Lastly, the reduction of emotional suffering consists of two individual skills, which are letting go and taking opposite action.

Letting go is essentially just recognizing an emotion, mindfully paying attention to it, and releasing it.

Instead of fighting or fleeing from the feeling, it is important to take note of it and then release the emotion completely.

Partaking in the opposite action means that you should do the exact opposite of whatever you are feeling or thinking.

For example, if you are feeling sad or dejected, this therapeutic technique encourages you to behave confidently and joyfully through both body language and words.


The therapeutic techniques of dialectical behavioral therapy are highly relatable and practical in a variety of ways and to a wide variety of audiences.

While this therapeutic technique was initially created to specifically treat borderline personality disorder, it has been modified and changed over time to treat an array of other mental health conditions.

Some of the mental health conditions that it particularly appeals to are eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, substance use disorders, or PTSD.

Its aspect of emotion regulation addresses the self-destructive behavior that is found in these various disorders.

DBT can be employed in a variety of settings or scenarios, such as in group therapy, individual therapy, or via phone coaching.

While it may not be practical to treat every type of disorder or situation, it has nevertheless been proven to be a therapeutic technique that is effective in its own way over time, and will likely continue to do so in the future.


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May 25th, 2024

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