Participating: A Core DBT Skill for Strengthening Mindfulness

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This blog post is the fifth 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.

Participating is a core skill in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) mindfulness training, which is designed to help individuals become more aware of the present moment and develop the ability to regulate their emotions effectively (Linehan, 2015). DBT mindfulness training is based on Buddhist mindfulness practices and incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy and dialectical philosophy (Linehan, 2015). Participating is one of four core mindfulness skills in DBT, alongside observing, describing and non-judgmental stance (Linehan, 2015).

Research suggests that participating in the present moment can have a range of benefits for mental health and well-being. For example, one study found that individuals who participated more fully in their experiences had lower levels of stress and greater life satisfaction (Kiken & Shook, 2011). Another study found that mindfulness training, including participating, was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression (Hoffman, Sawyer, Witt & Oh, 2010).

One of the key benefits of participating is that it can help individuals to break free from unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour. For example, individuals who struggle with anxiety may spend a lot of time ruminating about past events or worrying about the future. By practicing participating, individuals can learn to focus their attention on the present moment and become less preoccupied with thoughts about the past or future (Linehan, 2015). This can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve overall well-being.

Practicing participating can also be helpful for individuals who struggle with substance use or other addictive behaviours. These behaviours often involve using substances or engaging in activities as a way of numbing emotional pain or avoiding difficult experiences. By practicing participating, individuals can learn to face difficult experiences head-on and develop greater resilience in the face of adversity (Linehan, 2015).

To practice participating, individuals can start by focusing their attention on the task or activity at hand. This might involve using all of their senses to experience the present moment, such as by paying close attention to the taste, texture, and smell of their food or by fully immersing themselves in a creative activity like drawing or painting. Participating can also involve taking an active role in one’s experiences, such as by asking questions or expressing curiosity.

In summary, the DBT mindfulness skill of participating is an important tool for developing greater present-moment awareness and improving one’s ability to fully engage in life. By practicing participating, individuals can develop greater resilience in the face of difficult experiences, feel more connected to the world around them, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Practicing participating can also be helpful for individuals who struggle with substance use or other addictive behaviours.


Hofmann SG, Sawyer AT, Witt AA, Oh D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2010;78(2):169–183. doi: 10.1037/a0018555.

Kiken, L. G., & Shook, N. J. (2011). Looking up: Mindfulness increases positive judgments and reduces negativity bias. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(4), 425–431.

Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT skills training manual (2nd ed.). The 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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