April 17, 2024

Validation for Self and Others

Author: Allison Whitmore

Have you ever been told in a moment of distress “Just look on the bright side” or “But, you have so much to be grateful for”?

The folks I work with often hear these phrases (some say it to themselves), which can be quite invalidating. DBT’s the GIVE skill talks deeply about Validation – how to validate others and most importantly yourself. 

In my previous post, I introduced the GIVE skill from the Interpersonal Effectiveness module of DBT, which focuses on maintaining healthy relationships. The “V” in GIVE stands for Validation.

So, what does it mean to validate? According to Linehan (1993; 2013), validation is about “finding the kernel of truth in another person’s perspective or situation and verifying the facts of the situation.” Validation does not imply total agreement; rather, it involves acknowledging the situation’s facts and the person’s experiences, feelings, beliefs, or thoughts. When we validate, we are compassionately acknowledging someone’s pain and struggles, which helps maintain a meaningful connection.

Learning how to validate effectively is a skill that requires practice. DBT outlines six levels of validation:

1. Pay attention using mindfulness: Actively listen and hold space for the other person. Silence can also be validating.

2. Reflect back: Practice non-judgmentally repeating what you hear to confirm your understanding of what is being said.

3. Be sensitive to what is not being said: Notice body language, facial expressions, and the broader context of the conversation.

4. Understand: Seek to comprehend how the other person feels, even if you don’t agree with or condone their behavior.

5. Acknowledge the valid: This is the core of DBT validation—recognize the other person’s thoughts, feelings, or actions as valid in light of the situation.

6. Show equality: Drop any tendency to “one-up” the other person and treat them as an equal. Stay grounded in dialectics, acknowledging that there are multiple truths.

Remember to take care of yourself when practicing a new skill. Mastering any skill takes time. Don’t forget to Validate yourself!

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