6 Ways To Get The MOST out of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

1. Show Up

It sounds so simple, but it is, of course, essential. Some groups have specific attendance requirements, but it’s a good idea to set a goal for yourself that no matter how you feel mentally on the day of group, you will show up.  In doing so, you’ll be practicing the DBT skill of “opposite action,” a skill that can transfer to other areas of your life and be very helpful for completing tasks when you “don’t feel like it.” It is also helpful for shifting moods or emotions that you want to change. I often find that on the days I least felt like showing up, I ended up getting the most out of the group.

2. Truly Participate in Mindfulness Opening: 

The first 5 minutes of DBT group (after settling in) is a five minute mindfulness meditation. Group leaders will often use a track from one of Marsha Linehan’s (founder of DBT) CD, although sometimes other types of CDs are used.   Each exercise invites you to focus on JUST ONE THING, in the moment. For example, there is an exercise that asks you to sort your thoughts, called the Conveyor Belt exercise. Exercises like these can become resources to you in times of stress, episodes of dissociation (when you have “come back”) and other times when you may feel overwhelmed with emotion.

3. Pay Attention:

It is so easy to get distracted by thoughts of what happened just before group or earlier in the day. It’s also easy to think about what is happening after group, but for that time that you are present in group, it is important to be present not just physically, but also mentally.  I speak with fellow sufferers of Borderline Personality Disorder from around the world – many of them on waiting lists of over 2 years or who simply have no access to DBT. They would love to be in your place, so since you have a seat in class, be sure to value it. You are enrolled in a highly sought after, effective treatment to help you to discover who you really are and how you can begin to build a life worth living. 

Perhaps bring a bottle of water, sit up straight, and really listen to what others are saying. If you have something to contribute, considering doing so at the appropriate times. Taking notes can also help you stay focused, and that is the next tip.

4. Take Notes:

Taking notes is a great way to capture information that you think may be helpful for you to reflect on later. You can also put concepts into words that make more sense to you and jot down questions you may have for when there is time to ask. 

5. Do Your DBT Homework:

Most DBT leaders assign, in the least, Diary Cards for completion at home, and the group members are expected to complete these and bring them back to class. Diary Cards are a great way of documenting your success and challenges with using the skills you are learning on a daily basis.

Here is a blank Diary Card as well as a blog post on why I fill mine out, and a review of DBT Diary Card App available for iPhones and iPads.

I also offer FREE DBT Homework assistance every Wednesday night.

6. Participate in Examples:

During class, there are often opportunities for you to volunteer to share a bit about a particular struggle you are having, and the teacher may use the example on the dry erase board to illustrate how to use the skills to cope or deal with your specific issue. I find these opportunities invaluable and often volunteer for them.

What if DBT is not available to me?

First, make sure that’s the case.  You might try an Online DBT Class.

Lots of my readers are self-teaching the DBT skills.  I’ve gathered a number of resources, including books, workbooks, DVDs, and more on the BPD Resources page of this blog. Be sure to check it out. I update it as I find new resources to add. 

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

3 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    i was fortunate enough to be in the first dbt group in this area which started about a year ago; five of us started and each new module others joined; i am the only one that stayed and so the first to complete the programme, another two are on their last module so finish in eight weeks; i often felt bad and sometimes didn't want to go; once i sent my therapist a message saying i wasn't going; because i had harmed the night before he couldn't talk to me but he got one of the group leaders to ring me and she talked me into going; in the end i didn't miss any sessions which i am stunned about; i feel it was such a priviledge to be able to join a group and i gave it everything; your six points are very true and i followed them all; i think it came at the right time for me and i was at the point where i desperately needed it; those who left along the way i think weren't ready for it and may never be; different therapies work for different people; some who have left may start again, some think it a waste of time; i think it changed me and i still have to work on each little bit of it each day.


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