DBT Skills: What is ‘DEAR MAN DBT’


DBT Skills: What is DEAR MAN DBT

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed in the late 1970s by Dr. Marsha M. Linehan – this psychotherapy was adapted from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness/ acceptance-based strategies. However, DBT is specifically adapted for patients who feel emotions more intensely than others, and the therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment for those with persistent depression and suicidal ideations.

DEAR MAN is an acronym that is taught within DBT – this learned method is part of the interpersonal effectiveness skills. The practice is intended to be used by the patient to learn how to ask for something or say no in a peaceful and effective manner and to help improve their relationships. This ability especially becomes useful during disputes. So, what does the DEAR MAN acronym stand for?

  • Describe – the situation in a simple way using facts.
  • Express – how you are feeling using “I” statements. This allows the patient to take accountability and prevents the other person from feeling defensive.
  • Assert – this is when you ask what you would like from that person in a clear and strong manner.
  • Reinforce – make sure the other person is aware of the reason why they should grant your request.
  • Mindful – try not to become distracted by other topics. Instead, hone in your focus on the conversation you are having right now.
  • Appear confident – present yourself as feeling confident even if you are having some apprehension about asking for something or saying no.You can do this by making direct eye contact and speaking clearly.
  • Negotiate – do not go in with demands, instead be open to compromise to fix the situation.

Through use of this method, difficult conversations and potential conflicts are more likely to leave both parties feeling proactive and productive. The DEAR MAN skill in DBT can be used for both smaller issues and bigger problems.

Why do we use DEAR MAN?

This behavioral strategy is intended to help the patient assert themselves in trickier situations whilst maintaining healthy relationships. This particular aspect of DBT is geared towards asking for what you want or saying no in a way that can minimize conflict – however, DBT as a whole intends to help patients with a range of skills including regulating emotions, developing a better sense of self, and solving problems wisely.

Once DEAR MAN is utilized, a patient can establish their boundaries without conflicts escalating into bigger problems – it’s been shown to be an effective way to prevent intense emotions from influencing patient relationships negatively. The DEAR MAN skill comes under the category of interpersonal effectiveness and has been proven to be more efficient than other persuasion techniques – especially when compared to classic persuasion techniques such as  Foot in the Door, Bandura’s Theory of Persuasion and others.

DEAR MAN isn’t the only interpersonal effective skill within DBT. While DEAR MAN focuses on getting objective met, the GIVE skill targets keeping the relationship. So, what does the GIVE acronym stand for?

  • Gentle – act in a respectful manner
  • Interested – listen and appear interested. If you want to work on your relationship with your child, this may mean appearing to be interested in the latest video game (even if you don’t share that interest).
  • Validate – with words and actions. You are showing the person that you understand where they are coming from (even if you don’t agree with them)
  • Easy Manner – maybe bring in humor, smile

The GIVE skills can be layered on DEAR MAN if you are working on a request and trying to keep the relationship. However, sometimes the focus in an interpersonal situation is working on maintaining respect for yourself. Keeping self-respect is taught with the FAST skill. FAST stands for:

  • Fair – remember to be fair to yourself and validate your own and the other person’s feelings
  • Apologizing minimally – you don’t need to apologize for having an opinion or disagreeing
  • Stick to your values – remember what is important to you
  • Truthful – don’t lie or exaggerate to get what you want. Stick to the truth

The FAST technique is helpful for people who struggle with people-pleasing and always putting others' needs ahead of their own. These skills help you remember what is important to you and that you have a right to stand up for yourself.

Scenarios for DEAR MAN

An example scenario of when a patient could use DEAR MAN is shown in the example below:

A husband feels he could use his wife’s help around the house more. They both work full-time, however, he finds himself doing the majority of the chores. He uses DEAR MAN to communicate his frustrations:

    Describe: “We both work full-time yet I find myself doing a majority of the housework at home. This means I have less downtime at home with you.”

    Express: “I am feeling burned out, which I know leads to me being more irritable”.

    Assert: “I would like you to dry the dishes after I do the washing up in the evenings”.

    Reinforce: “This would mean we would have more time to spend together and I would not be as irritable with your questions.

    Mindful: “I know you are also tired after work, and you probably don’t mean to leave all the work to me”

    Assert: maintain eye contact and use a clear and strong tone

    Negotiate: “We can swap chores around from time to time, so they don’t seem repetitive”

Through use of this method, conflict is minimized as the issue is rationally explained and solutions have been suggested.

If you would like to learn how to teach DBT and DEAR MAN methods, check out our blog here to find out how these skills could potentially help your clients. For more information, contact our helpful team today or browse our online courses.

DBT Online Courses

Certified Dialectical Behavior Therapy Professional (C-DBT) Training: An Advanced Online Skills Training for Adapting Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Everyday Clinical Needs

The Integrated Trauma Therapist: Incorporating IFS with EMDR, SP, CPT, AEDP, DBT, and Psychedelic Medicines for Treating Complex Trauma and PTSD

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Certification (C-DBT): Practical Clinical Applications for Trauma, Comorbidities, Addiction and More

2-Day Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Intensive Training Course

Topic: Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Tags: Advice | How To | Strategies | Success | Tools | Wisdom

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