DBT Quick Reference: Holiday Survival Skills For Anxiety, Addiction Triggers, Emotions and Problem Behaviors

Many of my psychotherapy patients ask for a Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT cheat-sheet to have handy when: life happens, you feel overwhelmed, and you can't seem to remember what to do in the moment! This is a basic list to remind you that you DO have other options at your disposal to help you better manage your relationship problems, trauma symptoms, addiction and eating disorder triggers, anxiety, depression, self-harm urges, interpersonal effectiveness, stress and strong emotions. With the holiday season comes stress--and with no shortage of emotional triggers--people struggle with: alcohol and food in abundance, family stressors and memories that reignite feelings of anger, loss, sadness, longing and loneliness.

Even though situations and stressors are present, one goal is to help you make healthier choices for yourself! A good place to start is to remember to focus, breathe and be mindful. When the skills don't work (as they often don't), remember to move to Distress Tolerance and take a Vacation from whatever you're experiencing. Practice Radical Acceptance, Self-Soothing techniques and use Distractions. Therapy clients can use diary cards to keep track of the invalidating thoughts and behaviors that create ongoing problems. Diary cards can also be used to record helpful coping mechanisms. Remember: personal success, effectiveness, positive feelings and change is possible when you practice. If you are new to Dialectical Behavior Therapy, you can learn more about DBT Treatment here...

Quick reference list of skills for DBT users. Here you go...


What skills...

  • Wise Mind (intuition & a "felt sense")
  • Observe
  • Describe
  • Participate

How skills...

  • Non-judgmentally
  • One-Mindfully
  • Effectively

Distress Tolerance

Crisis survival and using Wise Mind Accepts...

  • Use ACCEPTS: Activities, Contributing, Comparisons, Emotions, Pushing away, Thoughts, Sensations
  • Use Self-Soothing with the five senses: Sight, Sound, Scent, Touch, Taste
  • Use IMPROVE the moment: Imagery, Meaning, Prayer, Relaxation, One thing at a time, Vacation, Encouragement

Using Accepting Reality...

  • Willingness
  • Pros and Cons
  • Radical Acceptance

Emotion Regulation

Using Reduce Vulnerability...

  • PLEASE: Treat Physical iLlness, balance Eating, Avoid drugs and alcohol, balance Sleep, Exercise daily
  • Build Mastery
  • Build Positive Experiences
  • Be mindful of current emotion
  • Opposite-to-Emotion Action

Interpersonal Effectiveness

  • Use DEAR MAN: Describe, Express, Assert, Reinforce, stay Mindful, Appear confident, Negotiate

Using Relationship Effectiveness...

  • Use GIVE: be Gentle, act Interested, Validate, use an Easy manner

Self-Respect Effectiveness...

  • Use FAST: be Fair, no Apologies, Stick to values, be Truthful


Kimberly Seelbrede, LCSW is a licensed Psychotherapist, EMDR Therapist and Personal Coach with a private practice in New York City. As a clinician who is passionate about the interplay between mind and body, she practices mind-body psychotherapy, providing holistic counseling and coaching for her clients. Her counseling modalities include: psychoanalytic psychotherapy EMDR therapy, CBT, DBT, mindfulness, crisis counseling and coaching with expertise in anxiety, depression, pain and chronic disease management, eating disorders (anorexia, binge eating, bulimia), addictions, alcoholism, trauma resolution, relationship + marital difficulties, women's issues (postpartum depression, new parent, divorce, separation, hormone imbalance), performance blocks, self-defeating behaviors, loss, grief, loneliness, self-esteem issues, post-rehab support and sexual problems. Via Skype, Kim Seelbrede provides life coaching, executive, personal and career coaching. Kim Seelbrede works with celebrities and high-profile individuals as well as high-level entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 executives around the world including London, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Connecticut and Washington. Her professional personal and executive coaching services are tailored to each clients individual needs and targets concerns such as feeling stagnate and stuck, self-assertion, self-sabotage, substance abuse, pain management, chronic illness, work/life balance, performance problems, communication challenges, anxiety and stress management/reduction.

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Beauty Queen: A Memoir to be released late 2016