A woman with curly hair sits in the sun smiling after using her DBT wise mind skill.

What Is DBT Wise Mind (and How Do You Access It)?

March 13, 2024

3 min.

When you’re able to balance your emotions and rational thoughts, you’re in “wise mind.” Keep reading to learn tactics for utilizing this dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) concept.

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

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Table of Contents

In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), the concept of “wise mind” refers to a balanced state where rational thinking and emotional intuition intersect, enabling people to make decisions and navigate challenges effectively. It integrates the reasonable mind (guided by rationality) with the emotional mind (often more impulsive) to foster clarity, resilience, and wise decision-making. 

Below, we will explore exercises you can use to access your wise mind and the benefits of this DBT practice.

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What is a wise mind in DBT?

As mentioned, the wise mind is a DBT concept that integrates the emotional mind with the rational or reasonable mind. It’s a balanced state of mind where people can make decisions and understand situations by combining their emotional intuition with logical reasoning.

The concept of wise mind is particularly significant in DBT because it helps people balance emotions and rationality to promote mindfulness and positive decision-making—cornerstones of DBT itself. As such, DBT helps people learn techniques (often referred to as DBT skills) that help people tap into their wise minds. By practicing these skills, people can better handle difficult situations.

Rational mind

Emotional mind

Wise mind

The part of your mind characterized by logical thinking, objective reasoning, and fact-based decision-making.

The part of your mind where intense emotions and subjective feelings influence thoughts, behaviors, and decision-making.

A balanced state of mind that integrates both rational thinking and emotional experiencing, leading to effective decision-making and problem-solving.

What are some DBT wise mind exercises?

There are specific exercises and techniques that people can use to cultivate and access their wise minds. Here are some DBT wise mind exercises to try: 

Mindfulness meditation

This involves practicing mindfulness exercises to bring awareness to the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness meditation can help people with emotion regulation and connect thoughts in a balanced way, fostering the development of a wise mind.

Opposite action

When emotions are intense and potentially harmful, people can practice opposite actions by acting opposite to the emotion they are experiencing. For example, if feeling withdrawn and sad, they might engage in activities that bring joy and connection.

Wise mind check-in

Regularly check in with oneself to assess whether decisions and actions align with emotional and rational considerations. This involves asking questions like, “What are my emotions telling me?” and “What would be the most effective response to this situation?”

Creating a wise mind toolbox

Building a toolbox of coping skills and strategies that can be used during distress to access a wise mind can be very beneficial. This toolbox may include mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques, and self-soothing activities.

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What are the benefits of the DBT wise mind?

DBT wise mind can help people in many areas of their lives. Here are some benefits:

Integration of emotion and reason

Wise mind allows people to integrate their emotional experiences (driven by the emotional mind) with rational thinking (guided by the rational mind). This integration is essential for making decisions that are not solely driven by emotions or detached from them but a balanced combination of both.

Effective coping

When people are in a state of wise mind, they are better equipped to cope with difficult emotions and situations. People can acknowledge their feelings without being overwhelmed by them and use rational thinking to find constructive ways to address the challenges they face.

Reduced impulsivity

People can reduce impulsive behavior driven purely by emotions by accessing wise mind. Instead, they can take a step back, consider the consequences of their actions, and make more deliberate choices.

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Improved relationships

Wise mind helps people communicate more effectively and empathetically in their relationships. They can express their emotions in a healthy way while also considering the perspectives and feelings of others.

Increased resilience

Developing the ability to access a wise mind fosters resilience in the face of adversity. People can navigate challenging circumstances with greater clarity, adaptability, and emotional regulation.

DBT skills at Charlie Health

If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people dealing with complex mental health conditions. Our expert clinicians incorporate evidence-based therapies into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions, including dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). With treatment, managing your mental health is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today. 

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