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Using The DBT Stop Skill for Recovery


For many people struggling with an addiction or mental illness, it can be incredibly easy to get caught up in a frustrating situation and desire to regress into prior habits. This can look like a few scenarios, from relapsing to lashing out at others, or worse. To combat this phenomenon, counselors and other mental health professionals will provide tools and resources that the patient can apply to get them through that frustrating moment. One such tool is known as the DBT stop skill, and Banyan Treatment Center Chicago is breaking down what this technique is and how useful it can be. 

Breaking Down the S.T.O.P. Acronym 

This acronym stands for Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully. It is a distress tolerance skill used within dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), an evidence-based form of psychotherapy emphasizing acceptance and change-oriented strategies. 

When we find ourselves in a stressful moment, it is easy to feel out of control in more ways than one. While we may not be able to fully control the situation at hand, we can and should work to manage how we react to these scenarios. The S.T.O.P. skill seeks to act as a reminder of lessons learned throughout DBT and a conscious exercise that can help ground you. Read on to learn more about each step. 

First: Stop 

When you start to feel your thoughts and emotions spiraling out of control, stop! Do not move. Do not react. Just freeze your physical body. Doing so will help prevent you from acting on your emotions, which would involve destructive behavior, such as relapse. The key to this step is staying in control. Take that moment to be aware of the emotions, name them, but do not let them overwhelm or control you. 

Second: Take a step back 

When faced with a stressful scenario, it can be hard to think clearly about a solution. Take a step back and give yourself the time needed to calm down and assess the situation. Detach yourself from whatever is going on, and practice deep breathing until you find yourself in a more suitable state of mind to address the problem at hand. There are a variety of ways to deal with stress now, but it becomes much harder to apply these techniques when we are too overwhelmed by a situation to think clearly. 

Third: Observe 

Once the first two DBT Stop skills have been applied, take that time to take inventory of what is around you, who else may be involved in the situation, and what else is being said or done. Also, take note of automatic negative thoughts that have arisen in response. These are thoughts that may seem random in nature but are the result of internalized belief systems that were established for many of us at an incredibly early age.  

Although it may seem easy to jump to conclusions, it is not advised for effective decision-making. We suggest that you gather all relevant information and facts so you can comprehensively understand whatever is going on, what options are at your disposal, and what avenue will best serve you. 

Fourth: Proceed mindfully 

Finally, after evaluating the information gathered, we can consider these factors when moving forward. The main goal should be to take the action that is going to lead to a positive outcome. We continue prioritizing staying calm and in control of our thoughts and actions while armed with valuable information that can impact our goals for the situation at hand. 

Our Illinois Drug Rehab Can Help 

The DBT STOP skill is just one of the valuable tools you can use to address issues you come across when maintaining sobriety. It is understandable that someone struggling with addiction will be confronted with situations that test their recovery. While relapse is a part of the process, Banyan offers effective alumni support programs programs that are designed to act as pillars of support for your recovery from addiction.  

To learn more about the programs and therapies available, call Banyan’s Chicago addiction treatment center at 888-280-4763 today. 


Related Readings: 

Stages of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy 

Preparing for Therapy Sessions 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Using The DBT Stop Skill for Recovery
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