The 6 Levels of Validation

Validation is a key skill in DBT. Knowing how to validate ourselves and others is not necessarily something that comes naturally to us, and if we do not learn how to validate, we may end up accidentally invalidating ourselves or others. Often as humans we tend to problem solve right away, without validating the feelings present. This jump to problem solving can feel even more invalidating and prevent us from problem solving as effectively.

There are 6 levels of validation taught in DBT. Below is a quick summary of how to validate others along the 6 levels:

Pay Attention – with non-verbals, such as giving eye contact, facing someone who is talking to you, etc.
Reflect Back – when responding, use the other person’s own words/phrases to communicate you heard what they actually said
“Read Minds” – make an educated guess about what is not being said by reading the other person’s body language and facial expressions
Express Understanding – let the other person know their thoughts, feelings, or urges “make sense” given their past experiences
Acknowledge the Valid – normalize that the other person’s thoughts, feelings, or urges make sense given how most people would respond in a similar situation
Radical Genuineness – respond as an equal, in the sense that we are all humans who have feelings and are trying our best to get through life’s struggles and experience its joys

Written by, Dr. Kevin Rowen

Photo Credit: @nonresident on

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