Using DBT Skills to Have an Overall Better Day

The great thing about DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills is that they are not only useful in times of crisis, but they can also become a helpful every day part of your life.

I've integrated the skills and am so thankful for them. Before starting DBT, I was very unstable.  My moods shifted from one minute to the next, and everything felt so unpredictable.  I could be set off or triggered by anything and usually immediately or impulsively reacted in order to quell the intense emotions that I felt (and often not thinking of new consequences and making matters worse.)

While I still experience mood swings, they are now more spaced out.
While I still get triggered or set off, I have learned, for the most part, to put space (time) between the incident that triggers me and any action I may feel compelled to take.

Just these two things alone have significantly improved my quality of life, as you might imagine.  

The integration of the skills came naturally. Because I always felt like I was "floating" and never fully anchored, I grasped onto my DBT binder and group like they were my last hope (and they very well might have been!)

I delved into the skills and began deliberately applying them - especially to avoid making situations worse when I was already emotionally distress. With each success, I became more encouraged and confident.  By filling out my diary cards, I became aware of just how often I was naturally working the skills into my life - so much so that DBT became more of a lifestyle than just a group I attend each week and a binder filled with worksheets.

I am so grateful to Dr. Marsha Linehan, the founder of this method. 

I bet the "sandwich artist" behind the counter this morning would be, too. There is a young woman at the sub shop that I visit once a week to pick up some sandwiches on my way to work. She's usually soft spoken, doesn't crack a smile, and sloppily puts together my order. She also seems irritated.

On past visits, I have left feeling slighted, annoyed, and even angry. This time, I decided to apply my skills - at a sandwich shop - to see if this would "improve the moment."

So I used the following skills:

Opposite Action:
  • Was a little bit kinder (Opposite Action to my annoyance/anger.)
Interpersonal Effectiveness:
  • Was little bit kinder (also falls under Relationship Effectiveness Handout 2 in Interpersonal Effectiveness and Building Mastery around Self Respect Effectiveness on the same handout.)
  • Realized it was okay for me to ask for my sandwich to be made the way I want it since I'm paying for it. (Interpersonal Effectiveness Handout 5: Cheerleading Statements for Interpersonal Effectiveness.)
Effectiveness Handout 5: Cheerleading Statements
 for Interpersonal Effectiveness.Click to Enlarge.
(Sorry, mine is marked up a bit)
Worksheet is from
Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder
by Dr. Marsha Linehan

  • I became interested in her and her day. She was playing music loudly in the store, so I playfully danced into the shop and smiled. I said, "Good Morning. How are you?"  I also asked her what time she had to get in each morning to be there and ready so early and that I hoped she got off early so she could enjoy the sun today. (Use an Easy Manner, Be Gentle, Act Interested, and Validate - all from Interpersonal Effectiveness Handout 9).
  • Turns out my favorite ingredient at that shop (I'm vegetarian but eat tuna) - the tuna - was not yet prepared. I noticed she was all alone and had no help. I promptly ordered a veggie sandwich instead. (Be Gentle and Courteous - also from  Interpersonal Effectiveness Handout 9).

The result? The clerk smiled at me, engaged in conversation, and made my sandwich nicely. As I left, she told me to have a nice day.  What a difference a skillful day can make.

Image Credit

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.


  1. Next Tuesday I start group DBT therapy. I've been on the waiting list for a year and now that it's come up I'm super nervous about the whole affair. I'm glad I looked up the #DBT hashtag on Twitter and found some of your posts. Your blog makes me feel a bit more at ease about the big leap I'm about to take. Thank you so much!

    1. Yaay! Congratulations! So glad you found my posts helpful, and best wishes in your journey with DBT!



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