DBT Skill: Check the Facts

This month’s DBT skills highlight is Check the facts. This is an important skill in Emotion Regulation and the first step used when we want to change an unwanted emotion. Our emotions can affect the way we think and the way we react to events. And oftentimes we are actually reacting to our interpretations or assumptions about an event, rather than the facts of the event itself. This can cause us greater emotional suffering due to faulty beliefs and absolute thinking. Checking the facts helps us figure out if our interpretations, emotional intensity, and the duration we experience the emotion fits the actual facts of the event. By then changing our interpretations, thoughts, or assumptions to fit the facts we can then alter our emotional responses when needed.

Here is a step by step guide on how to Check the Facts:

Step 1: What is the emotion I want to change?

  • Identify your emotions
  • Note: If your emotion intensity is high you may want to use some Crisis Survival skills first to get into wise mind to use Check the facts!

Step 2: What is the event prompting my emotional response?

  • Describe the facts, and only the facts!
  • Challenge any judgments that might be coming up or any black and white descriptions

Step 3: What are my interpretations, thoughts, and assumptions about the event?

  • Think of all possible interpretations
  • Look at all sides and points of view. Ask yourself, am I jumping to any conclusions?
  • Test out your interpretations to see if it fit the facts

Step 4: Am I assuming a threat?

  • In wise mind, assess the probability of the threat coming true
  • Consider: What was the outcome previous times you had similar thoughts?
  • Think of other possible outcomes

Step 5: What’s the catastrophe?

  • Imagine the catastrophe really coming true
  • Imagine coping well with the catastrophe by using other DBT skills (Problem Solving, Radical Acceptance, & Cope Ahead)

Step 6: Does my emotion and/or its intensity fit the actual facts?

  • Check the facts that fit each emotion
  • Examples of emotions that fit the facts:
    • Fear: there’s a threat to your life or that of someone you care about
    • Anger: An important goal is blocked or you or someone you care about is attacked or hurt by others
  • Ask your wise mind if the emotion fits the facts of the event or is acting on the emotion effective?
  • Note: Sometimes it is not the emotion itself that is the problem, rather the intensity of the emotion

Check the facts takes a lot of practice, and when used skillfully it can help us regulate our emotions and alleviate greater emotional suffering!

Written By: Gina Hesp, LCSW
Photo Credit: Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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