The DBT Skills


Mindfulness skills work to increase awareness, focus and acceptance. These are the skills to be more present in each moment, learning how to attend to the range of details (both emotional and factual) in a situation and therefore to make wise choices, rather than ones that are dictated by or deny emotion.

Distress Tolerance

Distress Tolerance skills are those that allow you to work through and survive moments of situational and emotional crisis without making the situation or your suffering worse. These skills provide options and alternative ways of responding to distress that enhance your sense of being able to cope and manage pain, emotions and difficult situations.

Emotion Regulation

Emotion Regulation involves learning how to identify emotions, recognise them before they escalate, understanding the function of emotions and the factors that increase vulnerability to emotions. It includes learning to tolerate unpleasant emotions and problem solving factors that prompt patterns of emotional suffering.  It also involves identifying and practising ways to generate pleasant emotions.  Overall this module increases awareness of emotions, the skills needed to take care of and live effectively with them.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

The interpersonal effectiveness skills focus on learning how to maximise the chances of getting your needs met in a way that maintains relationships and self respect.  Being interpersonally effective includes learning to identify priorities within interpersonal situations and factors that get in the way of being effective, as well as how to “ask”, “say no” and communicate in a way that reflects your own values and opinions.


Another important part of DBT is understanding the role of validation and invalidation. When we are invalidated (communications that send a message that our experience doesn’t make sense) our arousal goes up and this adds to our distress and the difficulty of managing emotions. Conversely validation soothes our arousal system. As such, it is important to learn how to validate our emotional experience as a part of learning how to manage it.  (see DBT self help links: tips on how to validate and validation examples).