Common Dialectical Behavior Therapy Acronyms

Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT works to help patients change patterns of behavior that might be holding them back. Originally created to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) it has since been adopted to work for mood disorders, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, as well as substance abuse, eating disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and sexual abuse survivors.

DBT teaches patients a variety of skills that help them with emotion regulation. It largely focuses on distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness. In an intensive form of therapy that utilizes both one-on-one sessions with a therapist and group sessions.

There are a lot of skills taught during DBT. It can be hard for patients, especially early on, to remember all of them but thankfully DBT uses acronyms to help with this. Here are the most common ones.


DBT teaches distress tolerance to help people deal with the tough moments life hurls at them. One way is to distract themselves with ACCEPTS:

  • Activities: Use positive activities you enjoy
  • Contribute: Help out others in the community
  • Comparisons: Compare yourself to those less fortunate
  • Emotions (other): Make yourself feel something different by provoking humor or happiness
  • Push away: Temporarily focus on something else
  • Thoughts (other): Force yourself to think about something else
  • Sensations (other): Do something that has a strong sensation like a take a cold shower or eat spicy food


Another distress tolerance activity, IMPROVE is used to help patients relax in a moment of distress.

  • Imagery: Imagine a relaxing environment
  • Meaning: Find meaning or purpose in what you’re feeling
  • Prayer: Either pray to the god you worship or simply chant a mantra
  • Relaxation: Take deep breaths, relax your muscles
  • One thing in the moment: Keep yourself in the present by focusing all your attention on the task at hand
  • Vacation (brief): Take a short break from it all
  • Encouragement: Be your own cheerleader by telling yourself you will get through it


This acronym associates with the emotional regulation portion of DBT. This skill focuses on maintaining a healthy body so that one is more likely to have healthy emotions.

  • Physical Illness (treat): Get proper treatment if you are sick or injured
  • Eating: Eat a balanced healthy diet
  • Avoid mood-altering drugs: Stay away from non-prescribed medication and drugs.
  • Sleep: Get the right amount of sleep, not too much or too little
  • Exercise: Get an effective amount of exercise (yoga classes are a great option!)


Interpersonal effectiveness is another element of DBT. This skill acronym helps people effectively get something they want.

  • Describe one’s situation
  • Express why this is an issue and how you feel
  • Assert yourself by asking for what you want
  • Reinforce your position by offering positive consequences
  • Mindful of the situation by focusing on what you want and ignoring distractions
  • Appear confident even when you don’t feel it
  • Negotiate with hesitant people and come to a comfortable compromise


This skill aids people in maintaining relationships, whether that be with friends, co-workers, family, or romantic partners.

  • Gentle: Use appropriate language while avoiding verbal or physical attacks, putdowns, judgment, and sarcasm
  • Interested: Act interested in what is being said when someone is talking to you such as maintaining eye contact, asking questions, and avoiding distractions
  • Validate: Show understanding and sympathy to other’s situations
  • Easy Manner: Be calm and comfortable


FAST is a skillset that helps patients maintain self-respect. It’s often helpful in combination with other skills.

  • Fair: Be fair to yourself and others
  • Apologies: Don’t apologize more than once for something that has been done ineffectively or was ineffective
  • Stick to one’s values: Stay true to what you believe in
  • Truthful: Don’t lie

Common Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Acronyms

If you’re interested in dialectical behavior therapy DBT, contact us today to discuss options.