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Yes, journaling is a component of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and presents in the form of a diary card. Dialectical behavior therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy that is founded on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and rooted in mindfulness practices based on Zen Buddhist teachings. Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed DBT in the late 1980s as a means to more effectively treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Although touched upon in cognitive behavioral therapy, DBT places primary emphasis on the psychosocial aspects of treatment. Currently, DBT is not only considered to be the gold standard form of treatment for individuals diagnosed with BPD but according to Behavioral Tech has also been found to be effective in treating a variety of other mental health conditions. 

DBT Basics

DBT has a multifaceted approach that includes weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, weekly group DBT skills sessions, and phone coaching. Each therapeutic setting has its own structure and goals. There will often be out-of-session requirements (e.g., group skills homework, diary cards, etc.) to help an individual continue to integrate and practice implementing the information learned into his or her daily life. The group DBT skills sessions focus on teaching and practicing the four modules of DBT, which are: core mindfulness (focusing skills), distress tolerance (crisis survival skills), emotional regulation (de-escalation skills), and interpersonal effectiveness (social/ relationship skills). Individual therapy sessions provide one-on-one attention to help the person go over skills learned in the group sessions, clarify any confusion surrounding a skills assignment and review one’s diary card. It enables an individual to further explore and dissect how the processes of implementing the skills have been effective throughout the week as well as identify areas that may need further attention. As-needed phone coaching is available to provide support between sessions should a crisis arise. 

DBT Journaling: Diary Cards

A diary card is a unique tool used throughout the DBT process. Different than keeping a traditional journal or diary, a DBT diary card is a grid-like form that is essentially a behavior-tracking tool to be completed regularly and referred to during individual therapy sessions. The purpose of a diary card is to track emotions, identify which DBT skills were used, and determine if the skills used were effective throughout the week. One-on-one therapy sessions provide an individual with the opportunity to go over and learn from his or her diary card. The therapist will provide support and guidance related to areas of struggle illuminated from one’s diary card, to help the individual pinpoint exactly where something may have taken an unproductive turn, and discuss strategies to avoid a repeat incident. 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.