Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Modules, Explained

Innerworld’s tools are based on two proven models: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) defines the relationships between our thoughts, feelings, physiology and behavior, and proves that if we can change our thoughts, behavior, or physiology, we can change how we feel.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is based on CBT, but it is specifically designed to help people who feel emotions very intensely. “Dialectical” in the context of DBT means that two opposing ideas can be true at the same time. For example, accepting oneself and changing one’s behavior might feel like contradictory actions, but understanding that both can (and should) be done simultaneously is the goal of learning DBT skills.

DBT is split into four modules: Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Distress Tolerance. Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance correspond to Acceptance Skills, and Emotion Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness correspond to Change Skills. Together, these four modules create an accessible framework of tools and skills to manage difficult situations and live a fulfilling life.

Learn more about the four modules below.


Mindfulness is a collection of skills that form the cornerstone of DBT. It’s about being focused on the present and experiencing our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgement. Mindfulness skills include observing what’s going on around you, paying attention to the physical sensations of your body, describing your emotions, labeling what you observe in your mind, and engaging in one activity at a time, amongst others. All of these skills enhance our ability to remain calm and focused in both everyday and challenging circumstances. A useful tool for mindfulness is the Wise Mind Tool.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: Navigating Relationships

Interpersonal Effectiveness skills are designed to improve communication, strengthen relationships, and assert personal needs while maintaining self-respect and respecting others. This module addresses strategies for asking for what one needs, saying no when necessary, and managing conflicts gracefully. Through practicing these skills, we learn how to balance priorities versus demands, the wants versus shoulds, and build mastery and self-respect in interactions with others. The Assertiveness Curve is a useful tool for mastering this module, as knowing how to be communicate assertively is a big part of navigating relationships.

Emotion Regulation: Managing Intense Feelings

The Emotion Regulation module provides tools for understanding and controlling powerful emotions that can overwhelm us. It teaches strategies for identifying and labeling emotions, increasing positive emotional events, and decreasing vulnerability to negative emotions. By applying these skills, we can prevent extreme emotional reactions (and behaviors), understand the purpose of our emotions, and respond to emotional situations with greater clarity and effectiveness. The Pro-Con Tool can be helpful for managing intense feelings by breaking down the choices we face into the possible outcomes of each and enabling us to choose the best option.

Distress Tolerance: Surviving Painful Moments

Distress Tolerance focuses on coping with and surviving crisis situations without resorting to destructive behaviors. This module emphasizes accepting reality as it is ("radical acceptance"), finding meaning for distress, and employing techniques to soothe oneself during times of intense emotional pain. The skills in this module aim to enhance the ability to withstand negative emotions and manage crises in a healthy, constructive manner. For situations that induce an emotional breakdown, the STOP Tool is an effective way to remain clear-headed and composed. (Post on the STOP Tool coming soon!)

DBT Uses

DBT was originally designed to help with challenges associated with disorders like borderline personality disorder, like controlling intense, negative emotions. But DBT, with its comprehensive set of skills across these four modules, can offer a powerful framework for anyone, whether it be personal development, staying grounded, improving relationships, regulating emotions, or tolerating distress.

Join an Innerworld event to learn more about DBT tools and how you can use DBT to lead a more balanced, fulfilling life.

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