Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) consists of two components. Individual psychotherapy with a therapist trained in DBT is done in conjunction with DBT skills groups. DBT skills groups are small, class-like settings that teach the various skills we use in DBT.
While self-help videos can’t replace individual sessions with a therapist, they can be a good way to learn DBT skills. And if you’ve taken a DBT skills group or are in one now, these videos can help clarify and reinforce concepts, and serve as reminders about things you’ve learned.
There are four categories of DBT skills. Click the on the headings below to go to the start of a category, or use the links in the sidebar.
Mindfulness Skills are central to DBT. We refer to mindfulness skills as “Core” skills because they’re so important. There are three goals of mindfulness practice in DBT: reducing suffering and increasing happiness; increasing control of our minds rather than allowing our minds to control us; and experiencing reality as it is.
In DBT, there are seven core mindfulness skills. The first is called Wise Mind. Next there are three “What” skills: observing, describing, and participating. Then there are three “How” skills: nonjudgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively.
Mindfulness skills are the first skills we learn in DBT, and they are foundation for many of the other skills. Emotion regulation and distress tolerance rely on our ability to observe and describe our experiences nonjudgmentally. And if allow our minds to control us, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness all become extremely difficult, if not impossible.
We can’t control our emotions. We can’t make ourselves feel or not feel a certain way. Instead, Emotion Regulation Skills increase our ability to influence our emotions and how we feel.
In DBT, emotional regulation skills teach us to:
- Understand, name and accept our current emotions
- Change emotional responses
- Reduce emotional vulnerability
- Increase resiliency
- Increase positive emotions
- Manage strong or difficult emotions
Emotion regulation requires us to be able to observe and describe our current emotions nonjudgmentally. Observing and describing nonjudgmentally are core mindfulness skills, which illustrates how important mindfulness skills are in DBT, and why we learn them first.
In DBT, Distress Tolerance Skills helps us accept, in a nonjudgmental fashion, both ourselves and our current situations. Distress tolerance skills build upon the nonjudgmental acceptance we learn thought practicing mindfulness.
With distress tolerance we learn to:
- Perceive our environment without demanding it to be different
- Experience our current emotional state without needing to change it
- Observe our thoughts and actions without attempting to stop or control them
In DBT, there are two types of distress tolerance skills. Crisis Survival Skills involve getting through crises without making things worse. Reality Acceptance Skills help reduce suffering and increase a sense of freedom by helping us find ways to accept the facts of our lives.
In DBT, Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills help us navigate interpersonal interactions more effectively, and as a result, avoid the negative emotions and damage to relationships that can accompany interpersonal conflict.
Interpersonal effectiveness skills focus on assertive communication. We learn effective strategies for asking for what we need, saying no, and managing interpersonal conflicts.
Interpersonal effectiveness skills in DBT include:
- Getting what we want or need from other people
- Making friends and maintaining these relationships
- Ending destructive relationships
- Finding a balancing in relationships between acceptance and change