Empowering Yourself: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills for Self-Help

It’s essential to recognize that every individual holds the power to initiate change in their lives. One of the effective ways to achieve this is through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a form of cognitive behavioural therapy that equips individuals with practical skills to manage emotional turbulence, interpersonal conflicts, and impulsive behaviours. This article aims to introduce DBT as a self-help strategy and elaborate on the key skills you can utilize for personal growth.

DBT originated from the work of psychologist Marsha Linehan, designed specifically to help those with a borderline personality disorder. Since then, it has been applied successfully to a range of mental health conditions like eating disorders, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It has also proven to be an efficient strategy for stress management and overall emotional regulation in day-to-day life, thus establishing its relevance in the realm of self-help.

DBT typically revolves around four main skill sets: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Let’s explore each of these.


Mindfulness, rooted in Buddhist meditation practices, is the bedrock of DBT. It is the practice of being fully present and aware in the moment without judgment. Mindfulness encourages us to focus on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of our experiences. ‘What’ skills involve observing, describing, and participating, while ‘how’ skills include non-judgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively. Consistent mindfulness practice can help individuals become more tuned into their emotions, thoughts, and body sensations, allowing them to respond rather than react to situations.

Distress Tolerance

Life is full of stressful events. Distress tolerance is about building resilience to cope with these adversities without resorting to destructive behaviours. Skills in this area involve distraction, self-soothing, improving the moment, and thinking of pros and cons. The goal is not to change the distressing situation but to accept and endure it patiently.

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation skills focus on understanding and managing emotions. This involves identifying and labelling emotions, increasing positive emotional events, reducing vulnerability to emotion mind, and managing extreme emotions. These skills can be beneficial for individuals who experience intense and fluctuating emotions.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Lastly, interpersonal effectiveness skills involve techniques for asking what one needs, saying no, and coping with interpersonal conflict while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others. These skills are especially beneficial for those who struggle with setting boundaries or effectively communicating their needs in relationships.

Using DBT skills as a self-help strategy involves daily practice and application. This means deliberately carving out time daily to practice mindfulness, creating a distress tolerance plan for high-stress situations, actively regulating your emotions, and applying interpersonal effectiveness skills in daily interactions.

Remember, change is a gradual process. As with any new skill, it may feel unnatural initially, but with persistence and patience, these DBT skills can become part of your routine, thus empowering you to manage your emotional and psychological well-being more effectively.

While this brief overview of DBT skills for self-help provides a starting point, further exploration of each skill and its subsets is recommended for a comprehensive understanding. Moreover, although DBT can be an effective self-help tool, it is not a replacement for professional mental health support, especially for individuals with severe mental health issues.

In conclusion, DBT’s self-help capabilities lie in its holistic approach to mental wellness. It emphasizes mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness, empowering individuals to navigate their emotional world confidently. As you begin to incorporate DBT skills into your daily life, you may find yourself becoming more resilient, understanding your

emotions better, handling stress more efficiently, and improving your relationships. Ultimately, these DBT skills can help you advance toward a healthier and more balanced life.

Practice Makes Perfect

Remember, practicing DBT skills regularly is vital for reaping their benefits. Theoretically, it’s not enough to understand them; real progress lies in their consistent application. Consider starting a DBT skills journal to note your thoughts, emotions, and experiences as you practice these skills. This can also be an excellent way to track your progress and reflect on your journey.

Additional Resources

Numerous resources are available if you’re interested in diving deeper into DBT. Workbooks like ‘The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook‘ by Matthew McKay and Jeffrey Wood offer practical exercises to understand and apply DBT skills. This is one of the recommended books for self-help.

Community and Professional Support

While DBT skills can be learned independently, sometimes community or professional guidance can be beneficial. Joining a DBT skills group can be an enriching experience where you can learn from others’ experiences and share your own. For those with acute mental health conditions, engaging with a professional therapist who specializes in DBT might be crucial. A professional can provide tailored advice and guidance to navigate the nuances of DBT skills effectively.

Guided DBT Self-Help with STG Therapists

Guided DBT self-help is a unique approach that marries the independence of self-help with the reassurance of professional guidance. In DBT, this method can be particularly effective when facilitated by an STG Health Services Inc. therapist. These professionals are adept in DBT and offer a valuable perspective on practicing DBT skills.

In a typical guided self-help scenario, an STG therapist might provide monthly sessions to individuals. These sessions allow for personalized exploration of DBT skills, wherein the therapist tailors strategies according to an individual’s specific needs and challenges. This tailored approach ensures that DBT skills are understood and applicable and effective in one’s unique life circumstances.

Furthermore, these regular touchpoints with a therapist offer opportunities to reflect on progress, troubleshoot any difficulties encountered while practicing skills, and continually refine the application of DBT skills. The therapist can provide constructive feedback and suggestions, enhancing the overall self-help journey.

In essence, Guided DBT self-help with an STG therapist ensures that individuals are fully supported and guided in their exploration and application of DBT skills, maximizing the potential for personal growth and emotional resilience. This combination of self-initiated change and professional guidance makes DBT even more effective as a self-help strategy.


In an era where self-help and personal growth are pivotal, DBT emerges as a robust and empirically-backed approach. The mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness skills offer a comprehensive toolkit to navigate life’s complexities. Remember, everyone’s journey with DBT is unique, and it’s okay to progress at your own pace. As you continue to integrate these skills into your life, you may become more emotionally resilient and mindful. And this empowerment, indeed, is the true essence of self-help.


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