Dialectical Behavior Therapy not only saved my life, but it also gave me a framework for creating something that I thought I'd never have—a life worth living. For me, recovery from borderline personality disorder has been hard work, but it's also been worth it every step of the way.
For a lot of people I know, keeping track of their skills, moods, and behaviors with a diary card can be a challenging (and often frustrating) experience. But keeping track of this important information is a good idea for several different reasons.
1. Recording our skills helps us to identify gaps.
Sometimes we can get stuck in a DBT skills pattern. We may find ourselves engaged in a little too much Distress Tolerance and not enough Emotion Regulation or we might recognize that we are leaning heavily on the FAST skills and that our GIVE skills may need a little extra work. Because mindfulness is a cornerstone of DBT, it's essential that we stay on top of those skills throughout the week, too. Keeping a diary card can be a valuable way to help us to see what we may be missing.
2. Keeping a diary card helps us to celebrate our progress.
Early in my DBT program, I remember looking at my diary card and thinking, "I'm using a lot of skills!" I needed this visual evidence to help me see that there were small things that I could do each day to help myself. After a few months, I could look back and see what I had been working on during any given week. It gave me a boost to keep moving forward even on difficult days.
3. Tracking our skills and behaviors helps us to see where we are going.
One of the central goals in DBT is to create a life worth living. It's hard to do that when we don't have a plan that is broken down into small daily steps. A diary card can help us to see the bigger picture of what we are working towards and the skills that we are using to reach those goals. For me, keeping a diary card during graduate school helped me to focus on one of the most important accomplishments of my life.
I created The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Wellness Planner: 365 Days of Healthy Living for Your Body, Mind, and Spirit as a way to record our skills while also helping us to stay focused on what it means to create the life we've always wanted. Because it's a spiral-bound book that can easily fit into your book bag or purse, you can take it anywhere. My hope is that The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Wellness Planner is helpful to those who are just starting to learn dialectical behavior therapy and also DBT graduates who are interested in practicing and reinforcing what we've already learned.
Here are some sample pages from her planner, supplied to Healing From BPD so you can get a real feel for the planner before purchasing it. (Click on each for larger images.)