Three Steps to Behavior Change

In DBT-C, we are looking for a balance of acceptance and change. That is, validating what is valid and changing what we need to change for more regulated and skillful behavior. In order for behavior change to occur, we need the following: 

1. Awareness: Whether this is for the child or for parents, the first step is to increase awareness of what we are experiencing and what our emotion is urging us to do. That could be a parent feeling frustrated and then yelling at their child or a child becoming angry and engaging in aggressive behavior. When an emotion urges us to take action, we call this an action urge. In DBT-C we teach mindfulness skills to increase our attention and awareness to this.


2. Willingness: For behavior change to occur, we can be aware of what our urges are but we also need willingness to do something different. This requires motivation. Sometimes feeling good about ourselves and feeling like we’ve achieved a goal is enough. We call this intrinsic motivation. Other times, we need extrinsic motivation which comes from reinforcers outside of ourselves that feel rewarding such as points, rewards, or a paycheck. Most children respond more from extrinsic motivation. In DBT-C we teach how to effectively motivate parents and children and specific skills to increase willingness.


3. Behavior Capability: Behavior capability is, essentially what to do instead of the maladaptive behavior.  In order to respond in a more effective way to big emotions and difficult situations, we need adaptive skills, effective problem solving skills, and cognitive restructuring in order to change distorted thoughts that amplify negative emotions. DBT-C teaches these skills and strategies to parents and children in order to increase emotion and behavior regulation.


If you feel you and your child could benefit from DBT-C, please call DBTOC to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Nicole Messuri, LMFT, BCBA.


Written by, Nicole Messuri, LMFT, BCBA

Photo Credit: Natalya Zaritskaya on Unsplash


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