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DBT Acronyms That Just Work

by | Nov 8, 2023 | MENTAL HEALTH, THERAPY

a woman who is using DBT Acronyms to stay calm

The path to changing your life may be possible through first changing your behaviors. While sometimes you can’t control your environment, you can control what you do and how you act. This concept was Marsha Linehan’s premise when she first created Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).


A Brief Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)


Dialectical Behavior Therapy was developed in the 1970s for treatment-resistant patients with Borderline Personality Disorder. Since it’s onset however, DBT’s efficacy has proven itself across an expansive range of mental health and interpersonal concerns. This highly structured approach helps people both accept their reality, while also teaching them the skills to change their reality.


DBT skills cover the topics of interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance skills. Therapists following this approach will often utilize acronyms to help their clients remember each skill. In this article, are a few acronyms that DBT employs- so you can start applying skillful means to your life today.


4 DBT Acronyms & How to Apply Them


DEAR MAN outlines conversational skills to get what you want from another person.


  • Describe the situation, while sticking to the facts. Be sure to tell the person exactly what you’re reacting to.
  • Express your feelings and opinions, rather than assuming someone knows how you feel. Take ownership through the use of “I” statements, instead of blaming the person through the use of “you” statements.
  • Assert your wishes. This can mean asking for what you do want, or saying no to what you don’t want. Try not to leave the person to their own devices in figuring out what would please you!
  • Reinforce the person to do what you want by explaining the positive effects their action will have, and/or clarifying possible consequences of their inaction. Remember to also reward their positive action if it does occur.


(Stay) Mindful. Keep a focus on your goals; be present; and don’t get off topic. Ignore any attacks or attempts to divert you.


  • Appear Confident. An unwavering tone of voice, open and upright body posture, and strong eye contact will help the other person see you as the effective and competent individual you are.
  • Negotiate. Sometimes, you have to be willing to give in order to get. This may mean reducing your request, offering alternatives, or asking what they believe is a fair solution.


GIVE makes keeping, and improving, your relationships easy.


  • (Be) Gentle. This means respecting the other person- instead of resorting to personal attacks out of intense emotion, manipulation, or threats.
  • (Act) Interested. Your body language and tone will indicate to the person that you want to listen and are sensitive to their experience and emotional state as well.
  • Validate. Acknowledge that you understand their feelings, thoughts, or actions. Reflect back what you’ve heard from them to be sure you are understanding correctly.
  • (Use an) Easy Manner. Smile! A soft sell often goes over better than a hard sell. If appropriate, don’t be afraid to use a little humor to ease the person along.


SMART frames your goals in a way that will lead to success.


  • Specific. You are more likely to achieve goals that are specifically detailed. Consider the questions of: what, where, when, how, with whom, and why.
  • Measurable. Refine your goals into measurable elements. What would be concrete evidence of this goal being met?
  • Achievable. Rather than getting swept away by idealism, consider your reality and limitations. What can/will you truly achieve?
  • Relevant. Do these goals fit you and your lifestyle? Ensure that what you’re striving towards is something truly worthwhile to you.
  • Time-bound. Create a schedule and set healthy deadlines to keep you on track.


ABC PLEASE helps you take better care of yourself. This, in turn, increases your capacity for emotion regulation and distress tolerance.


  • Accumulate positive emotions. Intentionally engage in activities that bring you joy.
  • Build mastery. Set and achieve goals. The feeling of accomplishment will help you regain a sense of control.
  • Cope ahead for emotional situations. Grow a deep understanding of your personal triggers, then build an arsenal of coping strategies (for example, deep breathing) that work best for you. Practice these strategies ahead of time so they become familiar.
  • (Treat) Physical Illness. Keeping on top of prescribed medications, attending your yearly physical, and consulting medical professionals when experiencing symptomology will all pay off for your long term mental health.
  • (Balance) Eating. Giving your body the nourishment it needs- when it needs- will better equip you to stay mentally and emotionally fit.
  • (Avoid) Altering Substances. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, non-prescription medications, and illegal drugs have mind-altering effects which may be inhibiting your ability to cope and self-regulate, even when you are not on them.
  • Sleep. Sleeping too little, too much, or not maintaining a consistent sleep schedule increases your risk for mental and physical disease. Here is a list of sleep hygiene guidelines to consider.
  • (Regular) Exercise. Exercise not only relieves stress, but it releases endorphins which help you maintain high spirits. Consult your doctor for an individualized exercise regime if you are unsure where to start.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Presley Rei Wilson is a clinical extern at Modern Intimacy. She is currently completing her Master’s in Counseling Psychology at the University of Miami and will pursue an additional AASECT Sex Therapist Certification upon graduation. Presley’s emphasis on holistic well-being and the mind-body connection are important to her work with clients.



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