Distress Tolerance 4: I.M.P.R.O.V.E.

Hey kids! Guess what! It’s another acronym!!!

Rocky loves acronyms!

Get used to them, DBT is riddled with acronyms.

This one is another set of skills you can apply when facing a moment of crisis or distress. Let’s jump right in!

I – Imagery


Use your imagination to put yourself in a place of calm. Imagine what you look like when you are coping well, when you are fine. What does that look like? Create an inner safe place where you can go that is entirely your own. Picture yourself in the escape instead of actually running away.

M – Meaning


Find spiritual value in the moment. What lesson is this experience teaching you? How can you learn and grow from this experience? Find a way to make this moment connected in your life.

P – Prayer


If you’re religious, you know what to do with this one. If not, it doesn’t have to be religious words. Prayer can be just words that you may repeat to yourself to self-sooth. Maybe a poem or inspirational quote that speaks to you. Just saying words, openly, accepting, meditating, and repeating, can help you find peace and calm in a difficult moment.

R – Relaxation


The first thing I always check in with when I feel panicked is my breathing. Take long deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do a body scan, looking for places in your body you might be unintentionally holding tension. Notice the tension, squeeze it and then let it go.

O – One thing in the moment


This one goes back to mindfullness. Remember to be in the moment. In THIS moment. Not ruminating on the past, not worrying about the future. The current moment is enough. Throw yourself completely in the moment.

V – Vacation


A mini-break. Use the five-minute rule: Take just five minutes away from your distress and then see how you feel There are two rules about vacation. RULE 1. Don’t take a vacation that will make things worse, RULE 2. Don’t make the vacation too long.

E – Encouragement

Positive self-talk. Give yourself compliments, reinforce the progress you’ve made. Say it out loud, say it like you mean it. Say things that are true; be realistic.

Make sure you take the time to go over these skills in depth with yourself, or find someone who supports you to go over them with you. Its one thing to read and study the words here, but it’s another thing entirely to put these skills into practice. This is why DBT is so intense, you learn the material, study and practice. If you’re not working with a group or a therapist find a way to hold yourself accountable for the practice. Do the work when you’re not in crisis so that when a crisis comes you already know you can do it. You’ll thank yourself later!