DBT Diary Cards | Why I Fill Them Out

Yesterday in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) class, I felt a bit like the teacher's pet. When the doctor asked who had filled out their Diary Cards, I was the only one to raise my hand (which made made me feel a little embarrassed, but to be honest, I liked the look of approval from our therapist.)

This led our therapist to talk to the group about "Therapy Interference" - behaviors that stand in the way of therapy.

She went around the room and asked everyone to talk about why they thought they didn't follow through with the homework of filling out the diary cards. What was the "interference"? A variety of honest answers were given by members of the class, such as:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the card
  • Not understanding the card's purpose, how to use it, or how it would really help
  • Not feeling invested in doing things to help themselves/their recovery
  • Putting other priorities first

When it came time for me to speak, I had a chance to share why I do fill out my diary cards:
  • I've stepped out in trust with all of the other recommended homework assignments for this DBT group. And each time, even though they often didn't make sense at first and even seemed like a waste of time, I actually gained something or learned something new. I figured this situation would be the same. Don't get me wrong. I felt ALL of the reasons (above) that were given by my group mates, but I just decided to give it a try anyway.
  • In all honesty, I like the opportunity for the positive attention that I get when I complete my homework assignments. Because I haven't been the best at keeping and maintaining friendships, I don't have a lot of social time in my life right now.  When I come to group, it is my safe place to talk about what's really going on and to get feedback and suggestions from others who are doing the work and from the doctor(s). I know it may sound lame, but it's truthfully one of the reasons that I follow through on my diary cards.
  • Even after just the first week of keeping a record, when I looked at the card, I found it very interesting to see that I use my skills on a very regular basis. It turns out that all of this practicing has caused me to integrate DBT skills as a regular part of my everyday life. That observation encouraged me. It means that the Dialectical Behavior Therapy is working and that I am changing and growing. Situations that, in the past, may have propelled me into a crisis are more than often now quelled by my ability to draw upon the the skills and turn to them instead of behaviors that are self harming or sabotaging.
  • I found it interesting to see that I use more than one skill every day - whether that day is challenging or pretty easy going.
  • I noticed that I don't check off certain skills at all or rarely ever - a sure indication of areas in which I can continue to grow and learn additional ways of regulating my emotions, being in relationship with others, tolerating distress, and being more mindful.

Here is one of my actual recent DBT Diary Cards.  I think we will eventually be learning how to use the top portion, but for now, our group only uses the bottom part:

Click to enlarge

For your reference, here is a blank form.

Blank copy. I am not sure which book
the hospital uses to copy this form.
No copyright infringement intended.

Whether you are someone who diligently fills out his or her diary card, someone who has difficulty following through on this homework, or even if you haven't even been introduced to this assignment yet, I hope you have found some insight or encouragement from this post.  Feel free to ask me any questions, and I'll respond in the comment area below. 

In the meantime, I am also taking an iPhone DBT app for a test drive. It allows you to update your skills every day and then email your diary card to your therapist in pdf format.  Once I have some more experience with it, I'll do a review and let you know how it works.

Thank you for reading.

More soon.


  1. i always filled mine out too, i think all of my group did; i finished dbt last week and towards the end i missed one day and sometimes did a day later;after last therapy last week i didn't fill out the rest of the week either;
    i have found them really useful to see where i have been emotionally and i often wrote things around the edges to explain more;
    the team manager has asked if he can see my charts and i am happy to let him, i did notice that with the pain of the ending i got higher scores than i had for a while; i might start them again in another format to help me continue my journey.

    1. Thanks for sharing how DBT Diary Cards help with your ongoing monitoring of your experience. ♥ Debbie

  2. im not sure how to use them..im confused

    1. Hi Kimberly,

      Here are some instructions. I hope they help: http://behavioraltech.org/downloads/diarycrdinstructions.pdf

      ♥ Debbie



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