DBT Skills: Pros & Cons

This post will talk about the Pros/Cons skill. This is a distress tolerance skill.

This skill is useful to help you to resist the urge to behave in a way you are trying to avoid. When you are in a situation where you feel such an urge, describe the behaviour you are trying to avoid.

Consider the positive consequences (pros) or negative consequences (cons) of giving into the urge for that behaviour. Think about the results of that behaviour from past times acting on those urges and any consequences of them, and consider whether those would be pros or cons of doing it again.

Example:

I am feeling the urge to self isolate.

Pros:

  • No one else will be exposed to my mood.

  • No one will be able to distract me.

  • People may worry about me which will affirm that I am cared about.

Cons:

  • In the past, it has made me feel worse and made my negative mood last longer.

  • It may put strain or tension on my relationships.

  • It may make people worry about me and it makes me feel guilty when people worry about me.

  • It may make it harder for me to meet my needs, such as hydration, food, etc.

(Please note that it is valid to need space as a form of coping in a lot of situations, but there is a difference between needing to be alone and actually self isolating and the latter is why I’ve used it as an example of a behaviour to avoid.)

This skill can also be used to decide between two or more actions. It might seem obvious which is the right choice outside of the moment, but in moments of intense emotions, our thoughts can be clouded and it can be difficult to use reason to choose the best course of action.

Example:

I am feeling frustrated because my partner said something that upset me. It wasn’t his intention to upset me, but I am angry.

I could either: Yell at him and make him understand how wrong he was.

Pros:

  • I get to vent how I feel.

  • It will feel satisfying in the moment.

  • In the end, I end up crying and having a breakdown which ultimately helps release a bunch of emotions leading me to feeling lighter.

Cons.

  • It will be hurtful and potentially scary to my partner.

  • I will punish myself afterwards with guilt.

  • There may be tension between us and/or it may damage our relationship.

  • I may not explain the problem in a way that my partner can understand, which may lead them to upset me in the same way in the future, or to change their behaviour in a way I don’t want them to do.

Or I could: Use my Coping Skills.

Pros:

  • I get to feel proud of myself for using my coping skills.

  • It will likely lead to me communicating with him in a healthy manner afterwards about what upset me, and potentially strengthen our relationship.

  • Will help calm my body and mind which is better for my physical well-being.

  • Will help build and reinforce positive thinking patterns.

Cons:

  • It is draining sometimes to use coping skills.

  • Sometimes it feels good to get a reaction out of my partner in the moment.

Weighing pros and cons can be helpful for making any decision between two or more options, but it can be particularly useful to help avoid negative behaviours which we have found hard to resist in the past. It may help to consider a potential future situation or an urge we know we experience sometimes, before it happens. We might even write a list of pros and cons for that possible future decision or urge. If we can remember the list we made, or even read a written list at the time when we have the urge for a behaviour we want to avoid, it may help us resist that urge.

The goal of this skill is to help us to realize that the positive consequences of not giving into our urges will outweigh the discomfort we may feel when we work at resisting those urges.

Pros & Cons
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Here is a printable worksheet I've made that you can use!

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