How to Practice the STOP Skill

By Shaudi Adel, LMSW

I would like to share one of my favorite DBT distress tolerance skills from Marsha Linehan’s DBT Skills Training Manual. It is based on the simple concept of taking a pause in the situation we are in, and yet it takes multiple steps and skilled intention to incorporate. 

  1. S is for STOP. 
    Stop in the moment and don’t react. Take a physical, emotional, and cognitive pause. You may even say the word “STOP!” in your mind or out loud. 
  2. Take a step back.
    Take a break from the situation mentally or physically. Take a deep breath in, and release. Detach from whatever is going on around you.
  3. Observe.
    Notice what is going on internally and externally in your surroundings. What are your current thoughts and feelings? What physical sensations are you experiencing? What situation are you in? What are you taking in with your senses?
  4. Proceed Mindfully.
    Proceed with mindfulness and awareness of your observed thoughts, feelings, and details of the situation you’re in. Remember your goals and your values. Consult your Wise Mind by asking yourself, “Will this action I want to take make things better or worse for me?”

I think this skill is a great one for when we find ourselves wanting to act impulsively on our emotions and thoughts. Again, it is based on a simple idea of taking a pause, although I think moving through each step can create a sequence of skills to help us return to Wise Mind when we need to the most. 

Linehan, Marsha M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual. New York: Guilford Press.

Shaudi Adel is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.