DBT Skill #1: Mindfulness
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – DBT Part 2 of 5
The first foundational skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of bringing one’s attention to the current moment. It is about paying attention to what is happening in the moment without judgment, overthinking, or invalidating the experience. Mindfulness is a major tool in DBT because it helps people accept and cope with the powerful emotions felt when challenging their habits or exposing themselves to upsetting situations.
Mindfulness and the meditative exercises used to teach it came from traditional Buddhist practice, though the version taught in DBT does not involve any religious or metaphysical concepts. DBT is about living in the moment and experiencing one’s emotions and senses fully, and with perspective. Mindfulness makes people more aware of their environments through their five senses of touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound.
To understand mindfulness, it is important to understand “What” and “How” skills.
“What” skills of DBT are what you do to be mindful. The main “What” skills are: observe, describe, and participate. People nonjudgmentally observe their environment within or outside themselves. They then describe, without judgmental statements, to express what they have observed. The third “What” skill is: participate, which people use to become fully focused and involved in the activity that they are doing.
“How” skills are how you do the “What” skills. These skills are done nonjudgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively. To be nonjudgmental, you describe the facts without considering the facts in terms of good, bad, fair, or unfair, because these terms are judgments and not factual descriptions. Being nonjudgmental helps you get your point across. You are one-mindful by focusing on one thing. This helps you appreciate the moment. You are then effective by doing simply what works. It is a very broad-ranged skill and can be applied to any other skill.
In our next blog post, we will discuss the second core DBT skill, which is emotion regulation.