May 24, 2024

Distress Tolerance in DBT

Author: Allison Whitmore

Our society is familiar with the word “crisis” – does anyone remember 2020?

The dictionary defines a crisis as “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.” Examples of a big crisis might include the aftermath of a global pandemic or the end of a significant relationship. There are also smaller, daily crises, such as meeting a deadline, dealing with a disagreement, or facing a sudden change in plans. Sometimes, we don’t handle these situations in the healthiest way.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) further defines a crisis as a short-term, highly stressful situation, that makes someone feel awful and in danger of acting in ways they’ll later regret. When facing these smaller crises, we might engage in behaviors that become problematic and harmful, often leading to regret. DBT’s Distress Tolerance module helps individuals accept these stressful situations.

In the Distress Tolerance module, you learn and practice skills to get through highly painful situations without making things worse. Our problematic behaviors often exacerbate the circumstance. Grounded in mindfulness, Distress Tolerance skills like the STOP skill can help you pause within the present moment and remember that you have choices. Most of the time, we are guided by automatic, unhelpful behaviors. The goal of this module is to undo these patterns by intervening with acceptance of the present moment through the use of distress tolerance skills (like the Radical Acceptance skill), to be better able to problem solve and build a life worth living.

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