The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley is a self-help workbook that covers the major skills involved in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
DBT is considered the gold standard for treating borderline personality disorder, but its usefulness isn’t limited to people with BPD. DBT is very skills-based, and many of the skills are quite broadly applicable.
The book’s introduction indicates that it’s written both for people who are already doing DBT as well as people with no background in DBT but are struggling with overwhelming emotions. For anyone familiar with DBT, you’ll notice that this book doesn’t make a lot of use of acronyms; for example, while ABC PLEASE is described, that acronym isn’t used.
The book takes a very matter of fact tone, and provides clear explanations. It is very much a workbook, with written exercises interspersed frequently throughout. The worksheets are easy to follow, with lots of thought-provoking questions.
The book is divided into four sections based on the major DBT modules: distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Each section includes both basic and advanced skills.
For each strategy, multiple different ideas are suggested for implementation. Even if some ideas don’t work for you, there are plenty of others to try.
Some highlights of what’s covered:
- pleasurable distractions (with a 2-page list of over 100 suggestions)
- self-soothing for each of the senses
- radical acceptance and nonjudgmental attitude
- describing and facing emotions, plus explanations regarding how emotions work
- wise mind
- how maladaptive behaviors (like cutting) can get reinforced because of short-term rewards
- opposite action (whatever your emotional urge is telling you to do, do the opposite)
- effective interpersonal communication skills
- using assertiveness scripts
- saying no
The book also talks about coping thoughts and self-affirming statements. These are realistic – there’s no delving into rainbows and unicorns territory.
While people with borderline personality disorder would likely get the most benefit from doing formal DBT, DBT in self-help form could have a lot to offer for people with other diagnoses struggling with their emotions. This workbook offers clear explanations and plenty of exercises for the reader to do, so I think it would be suitable for people with no knowledge of DBT.
The tone of the writing is not especially engaging, but it’s neutral and non-judgmental, even when talking about fairly charged topics like manipulative behavior.
Overall, I would say this book is a good choice if you want to give DBT a try.
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook is available on Amazon.
You can find my other book reviews here.
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