Moving Forward

To summarize, DBT is a cognitive behavioral therapy that also includes several helpful skills beyond regular CBT. When learning DBT skills, it is important to work on balancing how much you accept your problems versus change your problems, particularly when it comes to anxiety problems. In addition, it is also important to try your best to reduce your avoidance of emotions and thoughts, and try to use other ways to cope, ways that don’t involve avoiding. In the next chapter, we discuss skills that will help you do just that: accept and tolerate your emotions and thoughts, and stop avoiding them.

Chapter 3

DBT Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance Skills

Now that you have an idea of the types of anxiety symptoms and related problems we will help you with in this workbook, as well as a general idea of what DBT is all about, it is important to have a good understanding of the DBT skills that we will use to address your anxiety symptoms. Therefore, in this and the next chapter, we will begin to provide you with a road map to the DBT skills.

Remember how we talked about avoidance being one of the things that fuels anxiety problems and disorders? Well, in this chapter, we will introduce you to two sets of DBT skills that can help you to break harmful avoidance patterns and learn to accept, tolerate, and be present each moment in your life, even when things are tremendously difficult: mindfulness and distress tolerance skills. In this chapter, we will provide a description of what these skills are all about and how they might help you, as well as a couple of practice exercises to get you started with them.

The purpose of this chapter and the next is to provide you with a basic understanding of what DBT skills entail and how they generally work. How each skill can be applied to specific anxiety symptoms will be discussed in later chapters.

DBT Mindfulness Skills

Through DBT mindfulness skills, you learn to pay attention to your emotions, thoughts, and experiences in the present moment. Used in several different types of treatments and with roots in both Eastern and Western spiritual practices, mindfulness is simply paying attention to your experiences in the here and now (Kabat-­Zinn 1990; Linehan 1993b). You don’t have to meditate or sit for long hours on an uncomfortable mat with incense burning in the corner to be mindful, nor do you have to become a Zen master; you just have to be willing to awaken your mind to what is happening right here, right now.