DBT Skills: ‘Four Choices’ Strategy For Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

DBT Skills: ‘Four Choices’ Strategy For Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

One if the most fundamental concepts taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is referred to as the “Four Choices.” It provides a simple, but effective, model anyone can used when responding to serious life problems.

The recent coronavirus pandemic certainly meets that criteria! The simple and effective strategy can be used by anyone facing day-to-day life problems or bigger problems like we are experiencing right now. The coronavirus pandemic provides us the opportunity to practice all four of these responses, though clearly focusing on options one, two and three would be more effective!

The Four Choices strategy provides the following options:

1. Figure out how to solve the problem.

Choice one is about solving problems that are in our control. This choice helps us consider that even if we can’t solve the problem of the virus, we can problem solve ways to limit spread of the virus and be effective about how we proceed in the weeks to come.

2. Change how you feel about the problem.

Choice two helps us to think about “reasonable emotion” when it comes to living through a global pandemic. It is reasonable to worry. But, we can tolerate the worry when we check the facts. We can also learn to tolerate worry better when we are mindful and aware of what is reasonable worry and what is not.

3. Tolerate and accept it.

Choice three is probably the best choice when it comes to getting through the day to day. When we make this choice, we accept the reality that we are dealing with a global pandemic and at the same we can focus our attention on whatever we are doing in the moment.

Activities to focus on can include:

  • Going for a walk.
  • Playing a game.
  • Reading a book.

4. Stay miserable or possibly make it worse (by using no skills).

Choice four…use it wisely and sparingly! Making this choice means we have made the decision to stay miserable instead of using the other three choices. So just remember, if you make choice number four, misery likes company and being around “company” violates the social distancing rule!

Kym Hansen-Duell, LMSWKym Hansen-Duell, LMSW, ACSW is a licensed social worker at the Pine Rest Traverse City Clinic and is providing individual and DBT group therapy through Telehealth Services during the pandemic.

Kym has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Central Michigan University and a Master of Social Work from Grand Valley State University. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Academy of Certified Social Workers. Kym is available to speak at community events on topics such as ADHD, depression, parenting, family issues and workplace stress.



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