Distress Tolerance skills are a set of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills that are strategies to help you get though difficult feelings and situations, and tolerate (deal with, sit with, accept) the things that you can’t immediately change. Emotions can be extreme and lead to behaviors that are ineffective. You may not be able to change the stressful situation you’re in, but you can change the way you feel. Distress Tolerance skills are aimed to make your response to distress more effective.

STOP is a classic Dialectical Behavior Therapy Distress Tolerance crisis survival skill. It’s a skill that instructs you in how to take a moment when you’re in a crisis. Like many DBT skills, it’s an acronym.

  • Stop: do not react. Freeze yourself in the moment before you react.
  • Take a step back: take a break, let go, take a breath.
  • Observe: What’s happening in and around you? What are you thinking and feeling? What are others doing?
  • Proceed mindfully: moving forward, act with awareness and from Wise Mind. Remember your goals- what will help you get closer to them? What actions might move you farther away from them?

Using STOP the moment you enter a crisis can become automatic through practice. Remember that one goal of DBT is to slow down the path between trigger and reaction so that you have time to consider what action you want to take. STOP is a great skill to use to help practice this.