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Skills to Prevent Relapse, Continued

by Alice Minguez 5 years ago in coping
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Part 2/2: Emotion Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness

Continued from Part 1, which discussed the Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance modules.


Emotions are a tricky thing to deal with, and this is especially true for people who struggle with addiction. Emotion regulation skills are intended to guide us through life in a way that minimizes emotional crises or extremes. The emotion regulation skills are the following: PLEASE, Build Mastery, Opposite-to-Emotion Action, Problem Solving, and Letting Go of Emotional Suffering.


PLEASE is a recipe for emotional well-being -- because research shows that lifestyle factors can have a significant effect on psychological health. PL: Physical (take care of your physical health). E: Eating (eat a balanced diet). A: Avoid mood-altering drugs. S: Sleep (get an adequate amount, in a regular pattern). E: Exercise (get a moderate amount of enjoyable exercise)

Build Mastery

Put simply, Building Mastery means setting ourselves up for success and taking time to do things that make us feel confident and capable. This can translate to setting reasonable goals, obtaining a satisfying job, and many other things. The better we feel about our lives, the easier it is to resist relapsing into the misery of addiction.

Opposite-to-Emotion Action

This skill is used when you know the “right” thing to do but don’t feel like doing it. The key is to accept and validate that feeling and do the opposite of that feeling anyway. This is similar to willpower, but it includes the important feature of validating our lack of willingness rather than simply fighting through it.

Problem Solving

When an emotion makes sense and is proportionate in intensity to the situation, the Problem Solving skill can be used. Essentially, the idea is to brainstorm effective ways to solve a problem over which we have at least some control or influence.

Letting Go of Emotional Suffering

It is tempting to hold on to negative emotions — to ruminate. However, DBT tells us that this only leads to unnecessary suffering. Although it may feel strange, the best thing to do is simply accept the emotional suffering and then release it — let it go!


Interpersonal effectiveness helps us reduce our overall emotional vulnerability by teaching us effective and assertive ways to interact with others and avoid and/or solve conflicts. Practicing these skills ultimately reduces our emotional vulnerability and makes it easier to live a sober life. The skills of the interpersonal effectiveness module include the following: DEARMAN, GIVE, and FAST.


DEARMAN is the persuasive skill – the skill we employ when there is something we want and we need to convince others to get on board. DEARMAN provides a “blueprint” for making an effective and assertive request.

  • D = Describe (describe the situation)
  • E = Express (express and explain your feelings about the situation)
  • A = Assert (clearly state what you want from the other person)
  • R = Reinforce (offer a positive consequence in exchange for the other’s compliance)
  • M = Mindful (focus on what you want – don’t allow yourself to get distracted)
  • A = Appear confident (even if you don’t actually feel confident)
  • N = Negotiate (if necessary, try to find a compromise)


GIVE is a resource to optimize the quality of our interpersonal relationships. In particular, it can be useful in earning the friendship of another (or strengthening an existing friendship).

  • G = Gentle (make sure your approach is not threatening, sarcastic, judgmental, etc.)
  • I = Interested (express genuine interest in the other’s point of view)
  • V = Validate (show your respect for and acceptance of what the other has to say)
  • E = Easy manner (act in a calm, confident, likable manner)


This skill promotes self-esteem. When we feel good about ourselves, we don’t feel a need to turn to alcohol to feel better.

  • F = Fair (be fair to both yourself and others)
  • A = Apologies (apologize only when you are truly at fault)
  • S = Stick to your values (don’t allow others to sway you from your beliefs)
  • T = Truthful (tell the truth; lying causes guilt and rarely results in a positive outcome)

About the author

Alice Minguez

Alice is a freelance writer who contributes to Vocal in her spare time. Learn more about Alice at, where she has professionally-written articles for sale.

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