4D Emotion Regulation

This page provides an introduction to DBT Emotion Regulation skills, whose main focus is to help you to achieve ‘Change’* in your emotions or your situation.

Where change is not the right choice for you at present (i.e. where it would be best to tolerate the painful emotion in that moment, rather than act upon it) Distress Tolerance skills should instead be used.


What are emotions?

Emotions are a response to either:

  • what’s happening around us (happy that your sister is having a new baby)
  • the way we are thinking and feeling (shame at not doing well in a test)

There are lots of emotions that we all experience at some time, these include:

Emotions as emoticons


So, what are Emotion Regulation skills?

And how are they helpful?

‘Emotion regulation’ means to manage your emotions; these skills can be useful to everyone, but they are particularly valuable if you experience difficulties with your mental health.

Emotions, how we experience them and our ability to manage them, play a big part in the mental health of children and young people.

It might be that:

    • you are particularly sensitive to becoming emotional
    • your emotional experiences can be quite intense
    • one emotion can easily spiral into another more intense emotion
    • you have difficulty calming your emotions.

These can be common experiences amongst people that have mental health difficulties, and it is exactly these experiences that emotion regulation skills look to help you manage.

Put simply, emotion regulation skills are about helping you understand, be more aware of and effectively manage your emotions. With practice and experience, these skills can make a big difference to how you feel about yourself.

So, why is this so important?

Emotions are closely connected to how we think and feel about ourselves, others and the world around us. They help us to decide how to behave and respond to situations. They can help us to take action and make changes.

Thoughts-Feeling-Behaviour Cycle

Learning and practicing emotion regulation skills, will help you to manage your emotions, so that:

you don’t act impulsively upon strong emotions


you feel able to make ‘wise mind’ choices

(to improve the moment you are in)



The other pages in this section take you through the 3 DBT skills for emotion regulation:

Understanding EmotionsDecrease Emotional SufferingReduce Emotional Vulnerability

 Understanding your emotions

 Reduce emotional vulnerability

Decrease emotional suffering