Honor the power of your voice and begin your journey with us today!
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DBT Skills For Addiction Recovery

DBT skills are therapeutic coping tools for individuals undergoing dialectical behavior therapy in drug and alcohol treatment. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that’s widely used in mental health and addiction treatment. This therapeutic approach helps people manage distress and develop healthy coping skills through mindfulness, emotion regulation skills, and interpersonal work. One tool used in dialectical behavior therapy is a DBT diary card. 


Dialectical behavior therapy helps guests set goals and learn skills that promote lasting change in recovery from substance use disorder. Routinely practicing DBT skills helps can help people learn alternative ways of viewing their experiences. With a new perspective, people are capable of creating lasting change in recovery. For this reason, a DBT diary card is one of the most beneficial tools you can use to track your progress in therapy and recovery.


What Is a DBT Diary Card?

In essence, a DBT diary card is an ongoing record of the skills you learn in therapy. To successfully complete the diary card, you note the number of times you practice each skill throughout the week. Building skills is a core part of dialectical behavior therapy and recovery in general. To promote healthy behavioral change in treatment, trained counselors guide therapy groups in discussions on DBT skills.


Each week, DBT groups meet to review their DBT diary cards. In doing so, you can verbally acknowledge your progress and receive praise for your hard work. The group can provide insight if you struggle with a skill — whether due to a misunderstanding or a mental roadblock. Group members work together to problem solve and provide constructive feedback to support and propel your understanding. Peer support in group therapy can help you overcome harmful beliefs that hurt your ability to practice alternative, healthy coping skills.


A DBT diary card helps you track healthy and unhealthy behaviors. This allows you to visualize your progress, pain points, and potential setbacks. You will identify the unwanted behaviors you want to decrease by working with your therapist. To combat these unhealthy behavioral patterns, you brainstorm healthier alternative behaviors that can replace unfavorable actions. As you progress through therapy, you integrate DBT skills to increase healthy behaviors using the DBT diary card.


What DBT Skills Are on a Diary Card?

 The amount of DBT therapy techniques on your DBT diary card usually depend on where you are in treatment. As you learn the main skills in dialectical behavior therapy, your card will begin to fill up with helpful, adaptive coping skills. In general, the four main DBT skills can be found as the headers on your DBT diary card for skill building. 


The 4 main DBT skills include:

  1. Mindfulness skills
  2. Emotional regulation skills
  3. Interpersonal effectiveness skills
  4. Distress tolerance skills


While there are many variations of DBT diary cards, you will find that DBT skills training always includes mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance as key points of reference.


Here’s an example of the DBT skills listed on a DBT diary card: 

dbt diary card

How Are Diary Cards Used to Build Skills?

The DBT diary card generally tracks behaviors you wish to decrease at the top. The latter portion tracks skills to be practiced and increased. 

For the most part, the top of the DBT skills card is typically reviewed in individual therapy sessions. It is important for individual therapists to track the use of skills. Clients rate the skills they use on a 7-point scale in one column on the top half. The bottom half lists the most important techniques for behavioral change. You’ll be instructed to circle the skills you use each day. 


Tasks on your DBT skills list on your diary card include: 

  • Reviewing each skill.
  • Circling each skill practiced.
  • Rating the successful implementation of each skill based on the frequency of use.
  • If an issue arises, troubleshoot problems in filling out the cards. 
  • To solve potential issues, engage in problem-solving to find solutions.


During DBT skills training, you participate in a daily review of each skill on your diary card. For each day of the week, you will circle each skill that you made any attempt to practice. In addition, you will rate the success of each skill based on the frequency of use. It is important to note that maladaptive coping skills like drinking alcohol or self-harm do not count as skills. 


How Can DBT Skills Help in Recovery?

As you progress through therapy, you need to practice all of the DBT skills on your diary card, including ones you’ve already learned. While you and your therapist may spend more time discussing the implementation of your newest skills, the key to lasting change is to routinely practice each one. It is crucial to review each diary card skill because if left unnoted, the skill may drop off the radar. 


Due to the nature of mental illness and addiction, many people participating in DBT skills training have a lot of emotions circling their minds.  Reviewing each skill can prevent you from losing track of healthy coping skills amidst an emotional crisis. At a loss for what to do and overwhelmed by emotion, some people may spiral without their foundational DBT skills to act as solid ground. In that case, your counselor will work with you to troubleshoot any problems you experience when filling out the DBT diary cards.


Reach Out to Start Healing with DBT Skills 

Want to learn skills that can help you find new ways to view your experiences? At Royal Life Centers, it is our sole mission to supply you with the addiction treatment services best suited for you. The DBT skills learned in our treatment programs for substance use disorder will help you on your way. So, create lasting change as your build a new life in recovery with goal setting and DBT skill building! 


If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, please feel free to reach out to us at 877-RECOVERY. Our addiction specialists are available 24/7 to assist you through this time and find hope in recovery.


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