DBT Emotion Regulation ABC & PLEASE Skills

This weekend in DBT Skills Group we were taught about two Emotion Regulation skills which are used to reduce vulnerability to being in Emotion Mind. These two skills are explained using the acronyms ABC and PLEASE.

PLEASE skills refer to some of the ways we can look after our bodies in order to look after our minds. The acronym PLEASE is broken down as such (in residential I learnt it with a slight twist to make it more accessible than the original acronym):

  • Physical illness (treat it)
  • Lather, rinse, repeat (physical hygiene)
  • Eat balanced
  • Avoid mood/mind-Altering substances
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Exercise

One of the therapists ‘D’ expressed the importance of this skill by explaining to us the following: “As adults, we are really just big babies, especially physiologically, and our bodies need looking after in much the same way.” He continued: “Would you deny your baby of food for a day? Would you keep them awake all night long? What would happen if you refused to let them run around and play? And if you never changed their nappies or washed them? How about if they were screaming in agony with pain and you simply left them there? What if you fed them alcohol or cocaine to live on? How do you think they would be, feel and experience life?”

It was really helpful for me to think about the value of attending to my PLEASE skills in this way. Because no, I would never treat a baby or child in the way D described, so why treat myself any differently? And especially when it sets me up to struggle even more, mentally and emotionally, reducing my chances of a holistic stability and wellbeing – something I am working towards.

Easier said than done though ‘ey? And worth keeping in mind, nonetheless.

Moving on to the ABC skill: This outlines ways we can reduce our vulnerability to negative emotions by implementing enjoyable and self-esteem-building activities into our lives on both a short and long-term basis. It also helps us prepare for situations which may be challenging, by planning ahead of time.

The acronym stands for:

  • Accumulate Positive Emotions (and Experiences)
  • Build (a Sense of Personal) Mastery
  • Cope Ahead of Time (for difficult situations)

I will provide more detailed worksheets covering the ABC skills here – 1) A, short term, 2) A, long term, 3) B and C:


The goal of the week is to plan and engage in at least one positive experience, evocative of pleasant emotions, per day. This can be anything from going blackberry-picking to star-gazing, watching a movie or seeing friends, having a relaxing bath to going cycling in a park. And it all has to be done with intention!

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10 thoughts on “DBT Emotion Regulation ABC & PLEASE Skills

  1. I was totally thinking of the personal hygiene myself the other day. I know when I’m in one of my depressive states, the last thing I want to do is shower/brush teeth/change clothes/etc. Was thinking of changing the P originally for that but I like how you used the L in PLEASE and I will have to remember that.

    Liked by 1 person

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