Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – “PLEASE Mastery” Technique for Emotion Regulation
July 17, 2015
Bright and bursting flower, photo by Kendra LuckPhoto Credit: Kendra Luck

This article describes a practical psychology tool that is often taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) known as the PLEASE Mastery Technique. DBT is an evidenced based treatment model that combines the traditional theories and strategies of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with components of Mindfulness-Based Therapy. DBT has proven to be very effective with individuals who do not respond well to other traditional therapies.

Emotional Regulation is a core skill that is taught in DBT.  This skill is taught to help people understand and deal with their emotions in a healthier way. Emotional Regulation has three specific goals:

  1. To help you understand your emotions

Knowing how your emotions work will help you learn how to more effectively manage them so that they don’t end up controlling you. Keep in mind that negative emotions are normal and everyone experiences them at some point in their lives. The point of this process is not to invalidate how you feel because your feelings are valid, believed, and respected. However, when you have insight into why you feel a certain way, then that knowledge can help you respond differently in stressful situations. For example, some people engage in self-harm when they are feeling depressed. Emotional Regulation will help them understand what is triggering the sadness so that they can learn better ways to deal with it.

  1. To reduce your emotional vulnerability

Emotional vulnerability reflects how likely a person is to being overwhelmed by negative emotions. DBT teaches that there are three distinct minds that are involved in preventing one from being emotionally overwhelmed. An understanding of these three “minds” can help you learn how to better control your emotions, thoughts, and behavior.

  • Emotional Mind: Emotional mind is that place where emotions run rampant. Everything that you think about is controlled by your emotions. When you’re operating in this mind, it feels hot – like fire. Things quickly get out of control because it is difficult to engage in rational thought. All of your thoughts and behaviors are being controlled by your emotions.
  • Reasonable Mind: Reasonable Mind is when you look at situations purely from a logical perspective. It feels cool and calm in this state of mind. Emotions are more in the background in this state and it’s easier to brain storm and come up with solutions to problems.
  • Wise Mind: Wise Mind is where Emotional Mind and Reasonable Mind meet. This is the ideal state of mind where you are able to combine rational thought with emotion to function from an intuitive mindset.

Emotional regulation allows you to use Wise Mind so that you don’t become emotionally overwhelmed during potentially stressful situations. It helps you to stay balanced so that you don’t resort to Emotional Mind at the slightest provocation.

  1. To decrease emotional suffering

The third goal of Emotional Regulation is to help you let go of the negative emotions that are causing you distress. It’s important to remember that all emotions, good and bad, serve a function. For example:

  • Emotions help with communication.
  • Emotions can give you the impetus that you need to take action on important issues.
  • Emotions can serve as signals to alert you that something is happening and needs your attention.

As you can see, there are positive aspects for all emotions, even the ones that don’t feel so great. So it is not the emotions themselves that cause emotional dysregulation, but it is how your brain perceives them and responds. When you learn effective emotional regulation skills, then your emotions can serve their function without having complete control over you.

There are many different exercises that you can use to further develop the skill of emotional regulation. We will explore one of those techniques below:

PLEASE Mastery

PLEASE Mastery is a DBT technique that helps you reduce your emotionally vulnerability. Therapists have found that if you’re intentional about maintaining a balanced lifestyle, then you’ll be less likely to lose emotional control during stressful situations. The acronym PLEASE Mastery helps you remember how to take care of yourself to avoid being susceptible to intense emotional outbursts.

  1. Treat Physical Illness

Be sure to make your physical well-being a priority. Make sure that you are taking any medication that has been prescribed to you by your Physician and that you’re getting your routine check-ups. Also, when you feel ill, it is extremely important to make an appointment to see your doctor because you want to return to optimal health as quickly as possible. Remember, when you are feeling well, you’re less likely to spiral out of emotional control.

  1. Balanced Eating

Focus on eating balanced meals that make you feel good. Avoid eating large portions or portions that are too small. And don’t eat or drink foods that you are allergic to or that make you feel ill or overly emotional.  Again, when you eat balanced and nutritional meals, you’re less likely to lose emotional control.

  1. Avoid Mood Altering Drugs

If the drug has not been prescribed to you by a Doctor, then you should avoid consuming the substance. When you are inebriated or under the influence of a substance that has not been prescribed for you by a Physician, then it’s much harder to maintain emotional control.

  1. Balanced Sleep

Sleep is sometimes undervalued in our current culture. We are so busy getting things done that sometimes we slack on getting to bed at a decent hour. However, getting enough sleep is very important for your overall emotional well-being. Be sure to get the amount of rest that feels right for you and your body. Some people need 10 hours of sleep while others can operate just fine with less; it’s really about what is right for your body. Just make sure that you are getting enough sleep each night so that you’re not irritable and prone to emotional outbursts.

  1. Get Exercise

Get in some type of exercise every day. If you haven’t exercised in a while, that’s okay. Start where you are and gradually buildup to 20 minutes of physical exercise each day. When your body is strong and healthy then you’re less vulnerable to emotional roller coasters.

  1. Achieve Mastery

Do something that makes you feel good and increases your level of competency each day. When you feel good about who you are, your abilities, and your accomplishments, then you’re more likely to use Wise Mind during stressful situations. This means that your vulnerability for letting your emotions control you significantly decreases.

PLEASE Mastery is a very powerful strategy that will help prevent you from getting on the proverbial emotional roller coaster. When you are taking good care of yourself then it’s much easier to stay grounded so that you can function from Wise Mind.

About this Contributor: Aysha Ives, M.S. has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and has provided services as a Therapist and Success Coach for over a decade. With a love for God and a passion to help as many people as possible, she has expanded her services to include Professional Writing with specializations in Mental Health, Behavioral Health, and Spirituality. Aysha has published three books and has served as a Contributor for HealthyPsych.com, Psych Central, wikiHow, Insight Telepsychiatry, Mind Over Media, LLC, various churches and other private clients. You can learn more about Aysha and purchase her books by visiting Aysha’s Author Page on Amazon. You can also find Aysha on her website at www.livingoutloudinternational.com

  1. I really like the PLEASE Mastery. I think that could help a lot of people.

    In regards to better understanding one’s emotions, see Mary Lamia’s book, Emotions!
    In it, she explains the function of each emotion, which really helps de-mystify them.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! The mastery piece is so important – setting a goal and the subsequent sense of achievement and accomplishment promotes the release a dopamine – one of our ‘feel-good’ hormones.

  3. I am so glad that you both found this article to be so useful, Clark and Cassandra. And thanks for the book recommendation Clark!

  4. The biggest challenge I had with PLEASE along with doing DBT in weekly group, ind sessions and calls was the fact that my whole physcial side of things were in very poor shape due to chronic illness and interfered with ability to do the DBT work. So I had to stop and took a few of the skills along with meditation practices I already had and began a journey of trying to get advise from specialists, rehab, dieticians, gastro work, sleep specialists, and neurology. Still an ongoing process, but I am finding glimpses of times I can get back to skills. It is a huge acceptance process and emotional regulation exercise, but I also set boundaries on some family members who were triggering me (always have), they didn’t accept them, nor would negotiate a balance, so I had to cut them off – difficult to do, but had to be done. My mind is beginning to rewire a bit and I am beginning to see some light, but still lots of practice and determination needed, and acceptance that i just have to ride the illness issues through as best I can, and that wait lists can take quite a while, so I have to do my best, not place blame, and work with what I have.

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