The DBT iPhone App

DBT iPhone app

The DBT iPhone App

This is the most useful and comprehensive DBT app that I have seen so far. It contains a number of very useful features. Prominently there is an excellent interactive DBT diary in three parts: (1) DBT skills, (2) behavior targets, and (3) a place to record notes. Within the skills section of the diary, you can toggle a yes/no switch to indicate whether you’ve practiced the skill today. The “settings” section of the app allows you to customize the skills and add comment boxes where you want them. This skills diary section also provides brief descriptions of the DBT skills—which are also accessible for review from the app home screen. The “Targets” section of the diary invites you to track on a 1-5 scale your feelings (the defaults are: joy, pride, anxiety, anger, sadness, disgust, guilt, shame, pain; but the list is customizable); thoughts (customizable defaults: self-injurious, drug use urges, binge urges, impulsive urges), and behaviors (customizable defaults: drug use behaviors, lying, impulsive behaviors, stealing, overeating). The “Notes” section is open format and includes a day and time stamp. The app stores information from the diary card and is accessible by date from the main menu. The “Graphics and Logs” link from the app home screen is designed to create .pdfs of your cumulative diary information.

From the home screen, you can also access the “Coaching feature,” from which you’ll be given the option of “911 skills” as well as the skills for the four DBT modules. Here’s where this app gets really nifty: Click “911 Skills” and you will have the opportunity to link music and phone apps of your choice, contacts from your phone, and other “quick skills.” This is not a full distress tolerance toolkit, but it makes creative use of the format to put DBT skills at your fingertips. The other “coaching” sections attempt to link up skills and implementation. In some cases, the app offers suggestions for applying a particular skill. For example, under the “Observing” skill in Mindfulness, the app recommends attending to sounds in nature, positions of the body, kids playing, activities around you, tastes, and input from the other senses. In other cases, the app provides an interactive forum for using the skills. For example, under the “Pros and Cons” skill in Distress Tolerance, the app prompts for a description of the troubling situation, then asks for pros and cons of tolerating and not tolerating the distress. Answers to each of the four parts of “Pros and Cons” appear together on one screen. On the following screen, you can rate how well the skill worked.

The technical settings include options to email the diary card (including coaching sessions) to yourself or your therapist; offers achievement badges (hey, we all need a gold star every now and then), passcode protection, and daily reminders.

DBT has a tremendous amount to offer. The above description may sound daunting; there are a lot of moving parts to this app. The interface can, however, be learned in pieces. One might start with the diary card, then begin exploring the other features later on. I highly recommend it as a useful way of tracking DBT skill use and staying motivated to practice skills.

More information here.


DBT Phone Apps: Review

DBT Diary (by PsychDataSystems LLC


What It Does:

This is an event log rather than a diary card. The options from the initial screen are to log an event (more on this in a moment) or view or send event reports. Following the prompt to log an event, the screen prompts for “urges” and offers preset options. These are: self-harm, suicide, alcohol, caffeine, illicit drugs, medications, unhealthy eating, lying, spending money. The event logging proceeds from there. Tap an option and you’ll be asked to describe and give a number value to the urge and log whether you acted on it. You’ll then be prompted to choose from a menu of emotions: agitation, anger, disgust, disassociation, envy, fear, guilt, jealousy, joy, pain, sadness, shame, or other. Click one of these and the prompt is to describe the emotion, rank its intensity, and log whether you acted on it. Finally we get to the DBT skills menu. You are here asked whether you used any of the four major DBT skill sets–mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness. Click one of the four DBT skill sets and you’ll access a sometimes-inaccurate list of DBT skills. Here you’ll rank the outcome of the skill and describe your attempt to use it.


The app allows you to send this log to your therapist and saves reporting data. If you have arranged with your therapist to report coming in contact with urges, the app may be of use to you.


The hierarchy of the app (in which every logged event must stem from an “urge”) does not suit many of the purposes of keeping a diary card. Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation skills, for example, can and should be practiced in the absence of prompting events. The app requires a prompting event for each log entry. Moreover, there are no descriptions of the DBT skills. If you feel you have all of the acronyms memorized and would not benefit from a brief description of the skill sets, then you may be far enough along to make use of this presentation. If you are still learning the skills, there are other apps that explain them. You should also be aware that some of the skills are misrepresented. (For example, the app treats willingness and willfulness as skills; willfulness might be worth tracking, but it is an anti-skill.)

As some users have noted, there is no way to delete a logged event or move backwards once you have entered the initial “log event” prompt. This creates the possibility for a lot of false reporting, especially as you are exploring the app and its features. Everything you click will enter the log.

I don’t recommend purchasing this app. Watch this space for reviews of DBT apps that will give you better DBT information and a better user interface.

DBT Self-Help Website

Click here to access a wonderful client-generated resource by Lisa Dietz. Lisa writes on the site:

I began this website in 2001 because, at the time, there was very little DBT information on the internet geared toward DBT participants and graduates. Along with my colleagues, we were desperate to find a way to continue our DBT instruction or at least, stay updated on the skills. For me, staying active with the site has been a real gift. It has allowed me to remain active in DBT and be reminded of the skills to make my life a life worth living.

The website contains client-generated content relating to the four DBT skill sets: Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance, and Emotion Regulation. It also contains video scripts from Marsha Linehan (the founder of DBT), sample DBT diary cards, and links to scholarly research on DBT.

There is a tremendous amount of information here, so it helps to know what you came for. I recommend navigating the site by choosing a topic from the menu on the left and then letting yourself read and explore that topic–one thing at a time!