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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Osinski, LCSW

Skills to STOP a Problematic Behavior Pattern

April 21, 2023 - Written by Maggie Osinski, LCSW


"When it's not going right, go skillfully to the left."


I know, I know, it’s not that simple 🤔 ... but just hear me out!


When we apply SKILLS to our lives - like DBT’s STOP Skill - it can help us to pivot in moments of great difficulty & emotion dysregulation!



What is DBT?

As relates to the therapy world, you may have heard the term DBT before. A fun collections of letters, that represent one of the most effective treatment models in existence. DBT - short for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy - was developed by Marsha Linehan, and designed to help individuals manage and regulate difficult emotions. Emotion regulation is the pathway to changing behaviors that have a negative impact on your life. This treatment model focuses on acquiring and integrating new skills into your daily life, that will support your physical, psychological, social, & spiritual wellbeing.



What is STOP Skill?

STOP is a skill taught in DBT that will help you to tolerate distress. No, really - STOP is a "Distress Tolerance" skill specifically designed to help you:

  • Build a tolerance for difficult emotions

  • Survive Crisis Situations ("without making them worse")

  • Accept Reality and keep it moving

  • Identify and Integrate specific Action Steps to help you move through your emotions more effectively


🛑 How to use STOP Skill

Follow these 4 steps to practice regulating your emotions, as you build your tolerance for distress:

  1. Stop –Stop what you’re doing: pause, freeze, don’t do anything. Resist the natural urge to "act on" the emotions you are feeling. Find presence in this moment. There is nothing you need to do... besides the next step.

  2. Take a step back – Get some physical space from what triggered you, or some mental space by practicing slow, paced breathing while visualizing something that calms you (examples: ocean waves, a garden, animals)

  3. Observe – Non-judgmentally take note of your emotions, physical sensations, & thoughts. Zoom Out and try to see the big picture, as well as noticing smaller details about what you are experiencing. Any information gathered in this moment, through your powers of observation, is an important step in helping you to improve emotion regulation and distress tolerance.

  4. Proceed Mindfully – Use the information you gathered in the last two steps and then keep it moving! If you decide to take action, do so with intention and compassion (for Self, Others, & the Situation at hand). Remember to validate your self (your thoughts, feelings, perspectives) while simultaneously acknowledging room for growth.


Keep in mind, this is just a basic outline of how the STOP skills can help you move through moments of crisis. Your therapist will help you clarify when, how, where & why to use this skills.


So- as a reminder- if it’s not going right, go SKILLFULLY to the left 🔀🔄⏩

Not simple, but skillful! 💡



Looking for someone to help you STOP unwanted behaviors?

Book a Therapy or Coaching Session with Maggie to get started on your healing path!



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