The DBT Skills

Dialectical Behavior Therapy teaches skills that help reduce the intensity and frequency of overwhelming emotions, while also offering guidance for navigating these distressing emotional moments. DBT skills are divided into four skill sets: Mindfulness & the Middle Path Distress Tolerance Emotion Regulation Interpersonal Effectiveness Together, these skill sets help build the foundation for a life that feels more meaningful and worthwhile.


Mindfulness and the Middle Path
Mindfulness is a core concept within DBT that promotes full awareness of your present moment (i.e. thoughts, feelings and physical sensations) without judgment and without trying to change it. Mindfulness and the Middle Path strives to:
  • Focus the mind
  • Direct attention
  • Achieve a better understanding of feelings
  • Validate self and others
  • Recognize the dialectic


Distress Tolerance
Pain is a part of life, and being unable to deal with pain may lead to impulsive or destructive behavior. The goal of Distress Tolerance is to help people better cope with painful or distressing moments in more effective ways that won’t make the situation worse.


Emotion Regulation

Emotion Regulation concentrates on taking control of emotions. Difficulty controlling extreme emotions can lead to impulsive or ineffective behaviors. The goals of Emotion Regulation are to:

  • Better understand the emotions you experience
  • Reduce emotional vulnerability
  • Decrease emotional suffering


Interpersonal Effectiveness

The focus of Interpersonal Effectiveness is building and maintaining positive relationships. This module introduces tools to express beliefs and needs, set limits and negotiate solutions to problems without threatening relationships with others. Interpersonal Effectiveness skills can help in:

  • Taking care of relationships
  • Balancing your needs with the demands and needs of others
  • Balancing things you want to do with things you ought to do
  • Building/developing mastery of self and self-respect
Miller, Rathus, & Landsman (1999). Adapted from Marsha M. Linehan’s Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder, Guilford Press, 1993.