Describing: A Primary DBT Skill for Cultivating Mindfulness

A person listening to their friend practice describing

This blog post is the fourth in a series of blog posts on mindfulness as it relates to Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) treatment, which can be relied upon during the quintessential safety and stabilization phase of trauma therapy for early childhood attachment wounds, emotional dysregulation, or unsettling thoughts or feelings. Follow or bookmark the blog category DBT to discover the power of mindfulness practice and learn each of the six essential DBT skills for cultivating mindfulness.

The DBT mindfulness skill of describing is an essential component of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and is a vital tool for developing mindfulness and self-awareness. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of describing, its benefits, and how it can be practiced effectively.

The concept of describing involves using words to convey one’s experiences in a clear and precise manner. It is a mindfulness skill that encourages individuals to be aware of their internal and external experiences and describe them in specific, concrete language. By using descriptive language, individuals can better communicate their experiences to others and develop greater self-awareness in the process. Describing can involve describing physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts.

Practicing the skill of describing can have many benefits. First, it can improve communication with others by enabling individuals to accurately convey their experiences. This skill can also enhance emotional regulation by enabling individuals to label their emotions and gain a better understanding of their emotional experiences. Describing can also help individuals become more present and mindful by increasing their awareness of their internal experiences and the present moment.

One way to practice describing is to describe physical sensations. For example, instead of saying “I feel bad,” one could say “I feel a tightness in my chest and a heaviness in my stomach.” By describing physical sensations in detail, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their internal experiences and learn to regulate their emotions more effectively.

Another way to practice describing is to label emotions accurately. Instead of saying “I’m upset,” one could say “I feel angry and frustrated.” By accurately labelling emotions, individuals can gain greater insight into their emotional experiences and begin to regulate their emotions more effectively.

Finally, individuals can practice describing by reflecting on what others have said in a clear and accurate manner. This can involve paraphrasing what others have said and describing their emotions and experiences. By practicing active listening and accurately reflecting back on what others have said, individuals can improve communication and build stronger relationships.

In conclusion, the DBT mindfulness skill of describing is a powerful tool for developing greater self-awareness and emotional regulation, as well as improving communication with others. By practicing describing, individuals can become more attuned to their internal experiences and develop a greater sense of control over their emotional lives. With practice, individuals can learn to describe their experiences in a clear and precise manner, which can lead to improved communication, greater self-awareness, and better emotional regulation.


Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT® Skills Training Manual, Second Edition. Guilford Publications.

Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioural treatment of borderline personality disorder. Guilford Press.

Disclaimer: This blog shares general information only, not professional advice or recommendations. Consult healthcare providers for personal guidance. Decisions based on content are the reader's responsibility. Thank you.

Clayre runs a group practice of three queer and trans therapists, including youth therapist Audrey Wolfe, RCC, LGBT therapist Camber Giberson, RCC, CCC, and gender-affirming therapist Clayre Sessoms, RP, RCT, RCC, CCC, ATR-P. Work with us: book a session.

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