Distress Tolerance Skills: Reframe

Reframing refers to changing one’s perspective about something—in other words, helping make lemons out of lemonade or helping to see the silver lining. Of course a therapist, has to be careful that in doing so they don’t invalidate patients or minimize their worries. Here’s an example:

Patient: I can’t believe that I’ve been in therapy and doing all of this work for almost two years, and I’ve started bingeing again. What’s wrong with me that I can’t stop? I know how unhealthy it is, and I don’t want to gain weight again!

Therapist: Yes, you’re struggling, Anna, but it makes sense given all of the stressors in your life right now (validation). If this was two years ago, how do you think you’d be coping with everything that’s going on?

Patient: Well I’d probably be in the hospital already. At the very least, I’d be feeling suicidal and wouldn’t be functioning very well.

Therapist: Right. So even though you’ve gone back to an unhealthy behavior, you’re not where you were two years ago. In fact, you’re coping quite a bit better than you were back then, right?

Patient: Yeah, I guess you’re right.

There are many different ways to reframe. The above dialogue is an example of a patient comparing herself now to how she was in the past, at a time when she wasn’t coping as well. This can often help patients acknowledge the changes they’ve made, even though they may still be struggling.

The way patients talk to themselves about what’s happening in their lives can also change the way they think and feel about things. Often, especially when depression and anxiety are a problem, people tend to get fixated on the negatives. They focus on how bad the situation is and catastrophize or think about the worst possible thing that could happen. If you can change how you think about the situation, you’ll find that it’s more bearable than first imagined and you will be more likely to get through it without engaging in behaviors that could make it worse.

To help with self-talk, you should write out coping statements to use when you get into situations that you’re struggling with and that trigger intense emotions. That way you won’t make it worse with self-talk and can actually help yourself cope more effectively. Here are some examples:

  • I can get through this.
  • The emotions are intense and uncomfortable, but I know they won’t hurt me.
  • This pain won’t last forever.

Sources: DBT Made Simple by Sheri Van Dijk

One thought on “Distress Tolerance Skills: Reframe

  1. Misery and the tendency to emphasize the bad, in my experience, almost always involve a reference to some way it “ought to be.” This way it ought to be can be heaven, utopia or, most commonly, some species of justice/freedom.

    I’ve found great happiness in my life simply by rejecting the possibility of justice/freedom etc. I wonder if you have as well.

    Like

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