What is the DBT diary card?

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This blog post discusses what the DBT diary card is and what it is used for. 

We will also briefly discuss what DBT is, how the Diary card is structured, the instructions for use as well as what the benefits of this diary card are. 

What is the DBT diary card?

A diary card is a tool that is used in the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy by the client to help them keep a track of their symptoms and also the skills they use to cope. 

The card itself is presented like a grid like form and the tailor can be tailored for specific problems that both the client and the therapist have agreed to work on in the sessions. 

The card is an important aspect of the Dialectical behavioural therapy journey of the client and is an important aspect of the client’s journey of understanding themselves as well as picking up skills for them to use. 

The card is used to track their behavioural urges, their moods, what they did as a response to their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, or the coping skills that they used, as well as other things that they can do to help them.

The client is required to carry the card with them when they go to their sessions so that the therapist and the client can work together to understand their patterns and triggers so as to bring about changes in the way they think, feel, their lifestyle etc. 

In a DBT program, the cards are designed to record instances of behaviors that are being targetted in sessions such as self harm, suicidal ideation, moods, feelings, as well as substance use.

Other targetted behaviors related to their episodes are also recorded such as panic attacks, binge eating, thoughts about suicide, anger episodes etc while daily activtiies that help them quote are also given a space to be recorded.

The cards are reviewed at the beginning of the session and patterns and other issues that are important are discusses in the session such as patterns of substance use, or suicidal ideation etc.

How is the DBT structured?

The diary consist of variations- for adults, teens, and for different issues, depending on what the client needs but generally consists of the following areas:

  • Day/date of urge or behaviour;
  • Emotions felt;
  • Actions taken or skills used (or not used);
  • Triggers for the urges.
  • The diary card may also include space for a general rating for the day and any medications or substances used (legal or illegal).

The client is encouraged by the therapist to keep a track of these details, and to fill out the card or the form regularly and honestly. 

The client is also made to understand that they will not be scored nor judged for their responses in the card and it is not an assignment but rather it is a way for them to keep track of their experiences, their progress, and their self improvement as they progress in therapy. 

What is the DBT diary card used for?

The DBT diary carb is used for various issues with objectives related to the tracking, monitoring of the client’s behaviours, feelings, thoughts patterns, as well as to track progress. 

The use and aim of the diary card includes:

  • Keep track or monitoring by both therapist and the client’s themselves of their target behaviours, thoughts, and skills. 
  • This is done to bring about awareness of helpful and unhelpful behaviours to the client as one of the first steps towards self-improvement. 
  • It serves as a tool to help clients and therapists set new goals and also the direction of their therapeutic work.
  • The cards function as a diary that a person can use to review their own progress as well as be used as a way for them to identify what they want to work on. 
  • The card also helps the client and therapist to identify patterns and connections between their target behaviours, triggers, as well as emotional and cognitive patterns that feed the problem and help them develop strategies to deal with them. 

How to use the DBT diary card?

To use the DBT diary card, you have to remember a few things:

  • You have to bring it along with you in every session
  • You have to fill it up everyday and regularly and honestly.
  • You might have to discuss it in detail.
  • You might not have many skills to add in the diary card but as you progress, the skills develop through your sessions. 

Here is a complete guide to use the DBT diary Card: How to Complete the Diary Card: Instructions for Therapists and Clients by the University of Washington.

What are the benefits of teh DBT diary card?

Some benefits of using the DBT diary card include:

It helps the client recall what has happened during the week so that it can be brought up in the session to work on with the therapist.

It can be a tool to aid in discussing more important topics such as the “whys” rather than the “whats” of patterns, feelings, and behaviours. 

 It can help both the client and the therapist understand the unhealthy patterns that the client imagines as well as the healthy things that they do that helps them maintain their wellbeing on some days. 

It helps the client develop self awareness in terms of their feelings, their thoughts etc.

It can also help them identify their coping skills so that they can become aware of it and use them more regularly while also giving the client acknowledgement for their own strengths and their own skills. 

By regularly using the diary it also helps the client maintain awareness of their coping skills in the forefront of their mind and increases the likelihood that they will use them. As it becomes more familiar with them, it becomes easy for them to generalise its use. 

It helps them identify triggers that lead them to react and bring out the presenting problem.

It also helps them become more mindful of their behaviours, feelings, and thoughts, while also being mindful of the world around them.

As the diary card is being filled, the clients will become more aware of the healthy behaviours and skills they are using and in turn, and in turn validation of self becomes easier.

The diary card is also a concrete visualisation of the client’s progress in therapy which in turn helps them keep track of their progress as well as serves as a positive reminder of their progress.

What is the DBT diary card app?

With the progress of technology, the DBT diary card app has also been developed by a licensed psychologist to be used by clients for the same use that the original DBT diary card app is used for. 

The app also provides a feature where the cards can be downloaded in PDF form to be shared with the user’s therapist. 

You can download it off play store here

What Is DBT?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy that emphasises the importance of developing skills to deal with highly emotional situations. 

This form of therapy was created for the treatment of suicidal thoughts and is now considered as an effective treatment of emotional regulation dysfunction disorders such as Borderline disorder.

This form of therapy utilises a supportive and collaborative relationship between patient/client and therapist to address issues paying attention to self-destructive behaviours and focusing on learning social and coping skills. 

DBT also focuses on issues related to improving Quality of life and also coping with PTSD related problems. 

DBT as a form of psychotherapy was developed by Marsha Linehan when she noticed that the basic CBT approach did not work well for personality disorders- specifically Borderline Personality disorders.

Her DBT approach has been tailored to help clients accept their own ways of thinking, feeling, behaving, and also cultivate validations- internal validation towards their own emotional needs.

DBT utilises four skills:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Emotional regulation

Using these four skills, the individual goes through four stages of treatment which include:

  • Moving to gain control by setting and building up positive relationships and help them understand their emotions better to understand it and be more aware of it.
  • Express emotions in an appropriate manner as opposed to avoiding, shutting out or shutting down, or by being explosive.
  • Learning to solve problems as a part of their effort to live a better life so clients are taught problem solving techniques as well as help them differentiate serious problems as opposed to normal day to day challenges. 
  • Feeling complete as a person where the client learns how to feel that sense of completeness by learning how to focus on building a sense of well being for themselves. 

Conclusion

This blog post discussed what the DBT diary card is and what it is used for. 

We have also briefly discussed what DBT is, how the Diary card is structured, the instructions for use as well as what the benefits of this diary card are. 

FAQ related to DBT diary card

What is a diary card in DBT?

A diary card is a tool that is used in the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy by the client to help them keep a track of their symptoms and also the skills they use to cope. 

The card itself is presented like a grid like form and the tailor can be tailored for specific problems that both the client and the therapist have agreed to work on in the sessions. 

Is there a free DBT app?

With the progress of technology, the DBT diary card app has also been developed by a licensed psychologist to be used by clients for the same use that the original DBT diary card app is used for. 

The app also provides a feature where the cards can be downloaded in PDF form to be shared with the user’s therapist. 

You can download it off the play store here.  It is free too.

Is DBT good for anxiety?

DBT is an effective therapeutic intervention that can help clients learn to tolerate intense feelings and reduce symptoms of anxiety. However, DBT is found to be more effective for emotional distress and dysregulation as observed in some personality disorders. 

Can I do DBT on my own?

Unlike CBT, DBT is more complex and often requires a therapist to guide and teach the skills as well as assist in the learning of these skills in a client. 

References

Riopel, L.What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)? Positive Psychology. Retrieved on 27th January 2022. 

Swart.J. How to Use DBT Diary Cards. OpenForest. Retrieved on 28th January 2022. https://openforest.net/use-dbt-diary-cards/

Diary Card. DBT Self Help. Retrieved on 28th January 2022. https://dbtselfhelp.com/dbt-skills-list/miscellaneous/diary-cards/

10 Benefits of Diary Card Completion. Recovery Technology. Retrieved on 28th January 2022. http://recoverytechnology.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/DBT-Ten-Benefits-of-Diary-Cards.pdf 

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