Record, Reflect, and Refine: Perfecting Mental Health Skills

January 10, 2024
# min read

A professional baseball player (or even a dedicated amateur) will watch hours of footage of themselves swinging at the ball in a batting cage — often, the TV will be right there in the cage with them for instant feedback after each swing. Why? Because the feedback is objective. Only by observing their posture, stance, timing, and technique through objective eyes can a player improve their performance and increase their odds of hitting the ball. 

Recording is key to perfecting any skill — and the mental health skills we teach in DBT are no exception! Recording yourself can help you see your behaviors and reactions clearly, offering a unique opportunity to calibrate, correct, and perfect your mental health skills. 

Recording Yourself is the Key to Mastering DBT Skills

In DBT, skills and techniques like TIP, STOP, DEAR MAN, and others form the foundation of our practice, allowing us to tolerate distress, regulate emotions, stay in the moment, and be more effective in personal interactions. But how do you know if you're doing them right or making progress? 

Traditionally, DBT incorporates the use of 'diary cards' as a core component of its protocol. These cards are a form of self-monitoring tool, helping individuals track their emotional intensity, urges to engage in harmful behaviors, and the use of DBT skills. On one side of the card, you typically find sections to rate various emotions and urges on a numerical scale, along with columns to indicate whether specific target behaviors were used. The other side lists DBT skills, which individuals check off based on their usage.

At TheraHive, we've taken this concept a step further by modernizing the diary card through digital recording experiences. This innovation allows for a more comprehensive and interactive approach to tracking progress in DBT skills. Instead of just checking off skills on a card, individuals can engage in written, audio, and visual recordings. As a student with us, this  means you can see firsthand what's working and what's not, track your growth over time, and calibrate your execution of these skills just like a pro athlete or performer!

The Benefits of Recording Yourself as You Practice DBT Skills: 

  • Increased Self-Awareness: Recording your DBT practice sessions can unveil patterns in your thoughts and behaviors that might go unnoticed in real-time. This heightened awareness can help you recognize automatic responses and identify areas where DBT skills can be more effectively applied.
  • Objective Feedback: Watching your recordings provides a clear, unbiased perspective, akin to a therapist reviewing their sessions with a supervisor. This practice, common in therapist training, is now accessible to you. It allows for objective self-reflection, helping you identify areas of strength and those needing improvement, free from self-criticism.
  • Progress Tracking: Over time, your recordings become a visual and auditory diary of your journey, showcasing your growth in mastering DBT skills. Seeing your own progress can be incredibly motivating, reinforcing your commitment to continue practicing and improving.
  • Skill Refinement: Just as professional therapists and our TheraHive coaches review recordings to hone their skills, you can apply the same method to your DBT practice. Reviewing your sessions helps fine-tune your techniques, ensuring each skill is applied as effectively as possible.

Tailoring to Your Learning Style Through Multi-Modality Recording

As highlighted in our post on multimodal learning, individuals benefit differently from various forms of feedback, depending on their learning style. Some may find visual feedback from video recordings more impactful, while others might resonate more with written reflections. With video and audio recordings combined with diary cards and other written check-in, we make sure your learning style is covered.

Example: Recording Yourself Rehearsing DEAR MAN

DEAR MAN, a core skill in DBT,, is designed for effective communication, particularly in challenging interactions. It stands for Describe, Express, Assert, Reinforce, (stay) Mindful, Appear confident, and Negotiate. Practicing DEAR MAN involves crafting a clear message where you describe the situation factually, express your feelings and needs, assertively ask for what you want, reinforce the positive outcomes of your request, stay focused on your goals, appear confident, and be willing to negotiate.

Recording yourself rehearsing your DEAR MAN narrative/performance can be incredibly insightful. For instance, you might plan a DEAR MAN approach for a difficult conversation with a friend or colleague. As you record your rehearsal, you can observe how you describe the situation, whether your tone matches your message, and if your body language conveys confidence. You can also assess how clearly you express your needs and if you are assertive without being aggressive. Keep going until the recording looks how you want it to – then you know you’re ready!

A Few More Examples of Applying Recording to DBT Skills

  • Using TIP (Temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing): Record yourself when you're applying TIP in moments of distress. Later, watch the recording to see how quickly and effectively you're able to calm yourself. You might notice that your paced breathing isn’t as steady as you thought, suggesting a need for more practice.
  • Practicing STOP (Stop, Take a step back, Observe, Proceed effectively): In a recorded session, you might notice that you skip the ‘Observe’ step, rushing to ‘Proceed effectively’. This realization can help you focus more on observing your thoughts and feelings before reacting.
  • Practicing Mindfulness: When you record yourself during a mindfulness exercise, you may notice yourself frequently checking the clock, indicating a struggle with patience or staying in the present. Or perhaps you notice your brow furrowing, suggesting underlying tension or stress.  This awareness can guide you to refine your approach, for example by choosing a more suitable mindfulness exercise or adjusting your environment.

Reminder: Start in the Shallow End!

I know what you’re thinking — how am I going to follow myself around with a camera when I’m applying these skills in the real world? That’s why we recommend Starting in the Shallow End of the Pool. Practice these skills at home, and record yourself while doing so, so you’ll be prepared when you have a need for them in the real world/

Let's Start Now: Record Yourself Rehearsing a DEAR MAN 

Put your skills to the test and get in the recording habit now – use the Video Ask feature below to record yourself practicing a DEAR MAN. Experts from the TheraHive team will review your video, and reach out with feedback to help you along your journey.

Self-Recording is Incorporated in the TheraHive Experience

TheraHive makes recording yourself easy and intuitive by integrating this important technique directly into our learning experience. At the conclusion of most TheraHive course modules, we present a 'video ask' feature, allowing you to record your reactions and the application of skills you've learned. This isn't limited to video alone; we also incorporate written exercises reminiscent of traditional 'diary cards'. These written components enable you to reflect and document your thoughts and progress in a structured manner, similar to diary card exercises used in DBT. This combination of video and written recordings enhances your learning by providing diverse ways to internalize and practice the skills. 

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