DBT helps individuals learn to identify the triggers that are causing them difficulties and to use the skills to help you cope to avoid the past negative patterns. DBT helps with emotional regulation, distress tolerance, acceptance of situations, and mindfulness (being in the present moment without judgement).
A few of the skills are explained below. For the purpose of this blog a few skills are all there is time for. If you are interested in learning more of them reach out to me or to someone else who can teach them to you.
Distract with ACCEPTS – This skill helps with Distress Tolerance. The purpose is to help to manage or distract from unpleasant emotions. The acronyms help to remember the skill.
- Activities – Find positive activities to engage in.
- Contribute – Find those in need and volunteer to help. This can be as minor as paying for a stranger’s coffee.
- Comparisons – Think of people who are less fortunate than you are or think about a time when you were in a worse situation.
- Emotions (other) – cause yourself to feel something different by watching a funny video, or something else to provoke humor or happiness.
- Push away – Put your situation in the back of your mind. Think about something else more positive in the front of your mind.
- Thoughts (other) – Force your mind to think about something else.
- Sensations (other) –Find something to do that provokes an intense feeling like sucking on a sour candy, taking a cold shower, or holding your hands under cold water.
Ride the Wave – This is another Distress Tolerance Skill to help manage strong emotions.
Think about being in the ocean and having a big wave wash over you. What happens next? The wave washes over you and then dissipates. It is the same thing with strong emotions. Picture a strong emotion washing over you and eventually washing back out like the wave. If we recognize that strong emotions will eventually dissipate, we can Ride the Wave of the emotion until it washes back out. Knowing the emotion won’t last forever helps with this skill.
Jeff had times where he felt so sad following his wife’s death that he wanted to check out of life. By understanding the sadness comes and goes he learned to Ride the Wave when he felt overwhelmingly sad. This helped him to be in the sadness and to know that it would be worse at times and better at other times. With this knowledge, he was able to avoid self-harm.
Radical Acceptance - Are you suffering because of situations you cannot change? Do you have something from the past you are having difficulty letting go of?
Radical means complete and total. Acceptance is accepting life can be worth living even with pain. If we do not acknowledge and deal with our pain it will turn into a life of suffering. Pain + Non-acceptance equals suffering. Here lies the key to this skill. Saying yes to and accepting the reality of a situation, no matter how painful, is Radical Acceptance.
Lindsey’s husband left her for another woman five years ago. When with friends she continues to talk about how angry she is, how much pain she is in, and what she wants to do to get back at her ex-husband and his new wife. She is angry daily. The situation is horribly painful. If Lindsey were to Radically Accept that her husband is gone and the situation happened, she would be able to let go and move forward.
Try these skills at home today! They work. If you are interested in learning more DBT skills reach out to me or to someone else who can teach them to you. I currently run a DBT group for teens but also use DBT in individual therapy for adolescents and adults.