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DBT Emotion Regulation Overview

Updated March 2022

What are DBT Emotion Regulation Skills?

DBT’s Emotional Regulation skills help a person build up a base of positive experiences that help stabilize his or her emotions on a daily basis.

The goals of Emotional Regulation are to:

  • increase the ability to stay emotionally in the present moment

  • increase flexibility in thinking about emotional responses

  • increase the capacity to tolerate emotions

  • increase the capacity to tolerate the physical sensations accompanying emotions

  • reduce avoidance and maladaptive behaviors due to strong emotional responses and

  • practice titrated emotion-focused exposure techniques.

Mindfulness Guide: Mindfulness Everyday

The foundation for Emotional Regulation is the use of your Mindfulness skills. Mindfulness about your emotions asks you to engage with the experience of your emotions in an observational manner. Slowing down, non-judgmentally observing emotional experiences helps you learn to separate them out and name them. In addition, using non-judgmental observation of your emotions is important as this can reduce the pain of secondary distress. Often, along with the primary strong emotion, there is a flood of intense secondary emotions: shame, anxiety, guilt, and rage.

The primary emotion or emotions are adaptive and in context to a current situation. The secondary emotion or emotions are habitual feelings that come up about past situations and/or self-inflicted feelings of shame and guilt about having strong emotions.

Have patience with yourself!

Be patient takes time to learn a new emotional skill-set

Trauma can imbed emotional and behavioral pattens that you’ve successfully used to protect and help you along the way in your life. These protective mechanisms have served you well for a while. So, allow yourself some time to think about the basic foundational concepts of Emotional Regulation and be kind to yourself.

Learning to slow down, observe, not judge,

Learning to tolerate the emotional and physical sensations of strong emotion

Learning to separate out the tangled web of emotion

Leaning to name the separated out emotions

These are big skills and it takes time to reduce vulnerability to strong emotions, but it can be done, with support, practice, conscious self-care and self-love.

It takes six months to get thought the entire DBT curriculum and it is recommended that you go through it twice! So it takes time!

Stay tuned for more Emotion Regulation Skills!

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