How to Use a DBT Diary Card? (+3 Core Skills)

In order to help the patients that suffer from borderline personality disorder the first time a skill teaching handbook for DBT was introduced in 1980 by Marsha M. Linehan supports the individuals to deal effectively with the flow of emotions and other problems in life that are caused by BPD and various mental disorders.

This article, we will discuss DBT diary Cards.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy  (DBT) diary card 

DBT skills training manual is not only constructed on the basic codes of cognitive behavior therapy but also uses the formulas of psychotherapy such as talk therapy also pays attention to the psychosocial domain that may cause various mental disorders.

DPT based on the concept that some individuals might be more affected than others in a similar situation such as in interpersonal relation i.e. romantic and family relationships, friends group, and workplace bounds.

They usually have great emotional arousal in stressful situations and after reaching the height of their emotion they usually consume extra time to come to their normal situation.

BDPs known as having the most mood swings, view the world in terms of black and white, often deal with frequent crises.

Their inability to deal with their emotions properly they may experience being overthrown by their friend and family circles.

The main focus of DBT skills training manual is to help the BDPs to overcome their emotional flow rather than becoming the victim.

Components of DBT Diary Card :

DBT skill teaching handbook focus on the following characteristics of BDPs

Support orientation:

DBT Diary Cards support the client by making them enable them to focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses and use those strengths to deal with their problems that create a positive self-image of that individual.


DBT Diary Card skills training manual skill training teaches the individual to focus more on productive cognition that replaces their negative emotions that create hindrance in their life.  


DBT Diary Card works in a mutual way for both the therapist and the client by exchanging and solving the problems also known as the base of the therapy.

Therapists help individuals by role-playing that allows the client to deal with the same conflicting situation that causes problems in a calm and comfortable way and practice it at home so that he can deal with their life problems more effectively.

It can be directed through individual and group sessions.  

Individual sessions:

Administration of DBT Diary Card in individual sessions occurs only once in a week that mainly focuses on behaviors such as self-harming, cognitions such as suicidal ideation that cause problems in the past week, and those memories that are cause the problems such as emotional dysfunction in their interpersonal relationship.

Other factors such as quality of life and the client’s willingness for therapy is also discussed in therapy.   

Group therapy session:

Administration of DBT Diary Cardin group continues for 2 and half hours that teach the skills based on four different components of the therapy such as, success in an interpersonal relationship, mindfulness, approval of reality and control the overflow of emotions.

DBT skill training manual:

Marsha M. Linehan. Introduce two editions of DBT Diary Card. The first edition was based on research and development in 1993 mainly that made a comparison between the DPT handbook and different treatment for BDPs.

The second edition was based on the research that was conducted after the publication of the previous edition and developed in 2013 also has 4.5 ratings.

The DBT manual is based on a number of worksheets and handouts to improve skills that help the client to deal with their daily life problems.

Interpersonal relationships, mindfulness, approval of reality and control the overflow of emotions are the 4 modules in therapy.  

Four skills in DBT Diary Card :

A DBT Diary Card makes someone ready by working with these skills.


Mindfulness is a feeling of conscious awareness about the surroundings such as accepting your emotions and thoughts rather than criticizing themselves in a particular situation.

Mindfulness is focused on “what” and “how” components of a situation.

Such as a person’s ability to focus about what kind of emotions and thoughts he is experiencing in a present situation and also make a distinction between them.

How components focus on making a person more skillful such as maintaining a balance between thought and emotions, accept them, also practice them frequently and avoid the negativity.

Interpersonal effectiveness:

This component of (DBT) diary card skills training manual focuses on solving the problems in interpersonal relationships such as conveying others in an assertive way what he dislikes and saying no when he is not comfortable.

Although BPDs know how to deal with problems they face problems in the application of these skills due to their emotional overload.

DPT Diary Card helps the client to deal with the problems in an effective way without damaging the relationships and their self-respect by focusing on objective, relationship, and self-respect effectiveness objectives.    

Distress tolerance:

DBT diary cards help clients to deal with their stress creating stimuli by facing it in a productive way rather than avoiding it.

It is based on the free acceptance of reality such as accepting the crisis i.e. thought and emotions related to a situation in a non-judgmental and tolerating way. 

Different core skills that are taught to the client in order to deal with crisis are following.

●       Thinking of pros and cons

●       Distracting in Diary Card 

●       Improving the moment

●       Self-soothing skills (This is done with the use of five senses that is a sense of     smell, touch, taste, sight, and hearing)

●       Acceptance of situation

Emotional Regulation:

DPT Diary Card helps the people by regulating their emotions such as how to deal with the feeling of extreme irritation, aggression, and anxiousness in a situation by categorizing the emotions, the problem while changing them, don’t overly focus those emotions, think about positive emotions and apply stress tolerance techniques to control negative emotions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) diary card

DBT Diary Card has a card that consists of the 2 pages but prefers to copy on a single sheet on a double-sided paper.

Side One of  DBT diary card 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) diary card first side is composed of 23 very important skills that are mentioned.

The first one is “WISE MIND” skill and two skills are related to Mindfulness. These skills stay with you throughout the training.

Some skills are thought that clients have already achieved but they have to focus on how they can connect the new skills with the previous ones.

There is no need to hurry just stay relaxed and think about the first skill of Wise Mind.

To master the skill just need to practice it and talk about it with the therapist.

Just observe when you use it in the situation or not such as you observe it in a situation in which you work as judgmental and when you are not.

You might take help from others such as in professional settings friends help you when you abruptly become judgmental and the reason for being so.

After knowing it you may work on it by continuously practicing it.

The purpose of a diary card is to help them teach some of the important skills and check your progress so that you can help yourself and focus your emotions.

Side Two of  DBT diary card 

The second side of the card is based on the hindrance and obstacles you faced during the implication of a skill.

Urges of  DBT diary card 

You may ask in the columns about a specific record of these skills such as the number of times you are unable to practice the skill and in the bigger box, you may describe the situation that caused it.



Day Rating

Being Non-judgmental


Fri. may. O1


Mad at the boss.

It helps the clients to keep the track about their feelings and those who do not face any difficulty can also mention the behaviors they want to change such as overactive, aggressiveness, lack of assertiveness, insomnia, setting limits or any other negative behavior.  

Feelings and Behaviors of (DBT) diary card 

The next three columns are following:

Thought about Suicidal Ideation (0-5)

Feelings (0-5)

Attempt to Self-Harm

Impulses (0-5)

Attainment (Yes/No)

Client are informed in of (DBT)diary card 

To notice every single thought about suicidal ideation also gave special attention to its intensity on a rating scale.

Secondly, I gave attention to the feelings related to it on a 0-5 rating scale to keep a record of achievement in a week and lastly, focus on the impulses of self-harm and also the intensity of it.

The attainment Column shows your action as a result of the impulses.

You are eligible to fill the card in the presence of a therapist and also write down your phone calls and visit the therapist.   

Using Skills in  (DBT) diary card 

The last column is related to the “used skills” which indicate your approach toward the skill such as if you do not approach it you may write “0” or otherwise write the number of your approach.

In order to work toward the success you have to focus on the keys. Number 6 and 7 means that you practice enough skills that it becomes automatic in your behavior.

You can use the number from 1 to 5 if you are practicing the skills. You can mark the keys on your own because it is for clients to keep a track of your skills.

You may find it difficult at first but it would become easier with practice. You can also share your card and take help from your therapist.

FAQs about (DBT)diary card 

1.  What is the difference between DBT and CBT?

There is a huge difference and similarities between the both therapies.

CBT and DBT both focus on client’s cognition, feelings and resulted behavior at the same time DBT also gave attention to teach and achieve mastery in some skills such as mindfulness, stress tolerance, controlling emotions and dealing with interpersonal conflicts that make their life easier at present and also work for their future success.  

2. Can you learn (DBT) diary card skills on your own?

Yes, you can use these skills without taking help even if some people are using these techniques in their professional settings and friends circle without noticing them.

These skills are easy to learn and anybody can learn it by using the DBT skill training manual which is actually have the purpose to make you independent and also learning these skills and apply them in different settings also proved very beneficial for clients

3.  What does dear man stand for in a DBT or (DBT)diary card ?

While we work in attaining the skill of dealing effectively in interpersonal relationships we work on objective effectiveness and DEAR MAN is an abbreviation to achieve the skill of objective effectiveness.

If an individual achieves the skill of interpersonal relationship he also gets mastery in creating boundaries with their relationship, making a personal space also it helps to be assertive.

The word DEAR MAN actually tells us a unique technique where every word has a different meaning and you have to focus on all the words to achieve mastery.

Such as the word stands for

●       D = Describe

●       E = Express

●       A = Assert

●       R = Reinforce

●       M = Mindful

●       A = Appear Confident

●       N = Negotiate


Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!