What are the 4 DBT Skills?

Although Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is associated primarily with the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it offers skills that can be effectively used by people suffering with other issues such as anxiety disorders, anger, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse problems. Even for people who do not suffer a debilitating mood disorder or mental illness, DBT offers a host of skills that can be helpful to anyone seeking greater emotional stability.

The 4 DBT Skills

Dialectical Behavior Therapy focuses on four main areas of skills development: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance. Here is a look at the four DBT skills:

Mindfulness: This is really the core of the DBT program. Learning mindfulness means increasing awareness and being able to focus on just one thing in the moment without judgment. Mindfulness skills can help a person get centered, calm down, understand their emotions, and stay in the moment, focused on the present issue.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: Communication skills for working through conflicts are essential to help manage any type of relationship. Through the DBT skill of interpersonal effectiveness, clients learn how to deal with balancing their own needs with others’ demands, as well as skills for conflict resolution.

Emotional Regulation: Using the DBT skill of emotional regulation, clients learn how to identify their emotions, label them, and overcome their vulnerability to being swept up by them to an unhealthy degree.

Distress Tolerance: This is a skill that involves being able to sit with uncomfortable emotions and accept a situation for what it is, thus enabling one to better weather a crisis. Self-soothing techniques can help move someone from acting out to reflecting on what a better reaction might be.

For many people suffering with personality disorders, impulse control is a major problem. When difficult emotions arise, there is a tendency to avoid them by acting out immediately. Acting out can take many forms, such as substance abuse, self-harm, or rage. The four Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills can help to prevent people from engaging in these damaging behaviors and have healthier coping tools.

It’s not difficult to see that the primary facets of DBT are basic coping skills that can be effectively used by anyone at any time to help deal with situations in which strong emotions are involved. We all have moments when our emotions get the best of us, when we’re not acting in our own best interest or up to our own potential in a given situation.

People with personality or mood disorders may experience these moments more frequently and exhibit more extreme reactions to them, but the skills needed to cope with these moments and get through them with the least amount of damage being done are the same for all of us. When used properly, anyone can benefit from the four Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills.

Tags: dbt skills, Dialectical Behavior Therapy


  1. Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy Video - Dec 21, 2012

    [...] (DBT), it may sound like an overwhelming concept. What does the term “DBT” mean? What are DBT skills? How do you learn [...]

  2. Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy to Stay Mindful - May 23, 2013

    [...] Mindfulness meditation will help you focus your mind and increase your attentiveness. Meditation is just one of the mindfulness skills you’ll learn in DBT therapy. [...]

Leave a Reply