Book Review: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook

book cover: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley

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, ABC PLEASE is described without using that acronym.

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 very good choice if you want to give DBT a try.

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

You can visit the post What Is… Borderline Personality Disorder for all things BPD on MH@H.

35 thoughts on “Book Review: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook”

  1. Johnzelle Anderson

    This is my go-to workbook that I use with my clients. Love the sections on radical acceptance and the big list of pleasurable activities.

  2. Thanks for sharing! I got the bipolar disorder version of this book. Definitely found parts of it helpful! I can easily see how such skills can help many people (not just those with BPD).

  3. Very neutral tone in this book. Very skills-oriented. A new PTSD version came out last year. One of our Ts is test-driving it for us. The book as reviewed has some benefit for us, and it lacks life-connecting energy. It’s hard to “to-do list” us to safety and healing. Still, it’s more likely to help some than hurt at all. We used it last week. And then put it at the bottom of the resource pile again.

    Do you use it?

      1. We wonder if you’d dislike nonviolent Communication. It’s interesting because its creator (marshall Rosenberg) rails against “New age bullshit,” and NVC can seem “out there” because its goals are so lofty. He’s very human, though. In ways DBT is not for us

        1. I don’t know much about nonviolent communication, although looking at the 4-part NVC process I see a fair bit of overlap with things that are covered in DBT.

  4. We have this book! I flutter around it like a humming bird not staying very long, I get the fidgets lol 🙂 it is a great book

  5. Thanks for sharing – DBT is one area of therapy I don’t know much about, but I really like the sound of some of the techniques this book mentions. Sounds like it’s worth a read! x

  6. Thank you Ashley. I don’t know much about DBT but if I can learn something from it I’ll add it too my list of too get books. Thanks for sharing

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