DBT 101: Three Mind States of DBT

As we continue to progress on through the four DBT modules in this blog series, we find ourselves exiting Distress Tolerance and entering Emotion Regulation. This module does just what it says— it teaches us various ways in which we can understand our emotions and better regulate them! This module provides a number of useful tools we can use to regain control over our emotions, so they are no longer in the driver’s seat moving us towards poor decision-making. In order to use the tools in the Emotion Regulation module, let’s first review the a few key terms you may have seen referenced in earlier blogs! These three key terms (the three mind states of DBT) are central to DBT—they are Emotion Mind, Reasonable Mind and Wise Mind.

Emotion Mind: we can think of Emotion Mind as a space in which our thoughts run wild. In this place, emotions run the show and drive our actions and decision-making. It’s very hard to view situations through a rational, objective or factual lens when in Emotion Mind. In this state our decision-making and planning capabilities may be distorted. For an individual who has trouble regulating their emotions, this state is often referred to as being “hot” because emotions are in the driver’s seat and the engine is on overdrive.

Reasonable Mind: contrary to Emotion Mind, when in Reasonable Mind our thoughts are “cool.” We are evaluating situations through a reasonable or logical brain only. One will use facts, statistics, thinking and planning to problem-solve. In this state we may feel as though our attention is focused on the task at hand and we are less aware of our emotions.

Wise Mind: if we think of these mind states as a Venn Diagram, Wise Mind would be that central space in which Reasonable Mind and Emotion Mind overlap. In Wise Mind we are able to use our valuable emotions, while collaborating with rational, logical thought to identify solutions and problem solve. When we access Wise Mind we can honor our gut feelings, intuition and instincts to make choices that are beneficial for ourselves and those around us. While we may not always want to do what our gut knows is best, when we can tap into Wise Mind we can make decisions that are healthy, helpful and productive!

We will revisit these states of mind as we progress through the Emotion Regulation module, so keep an eye out! Over the next few weeks, we will learn to access the skills necessary to help keep us in Wise Mind more often than not. Through the Emotion Regulation module, we will learn to identify and let go of emotions that are causing distress or contributing to moments of poor decision making.



Dietz, L. (2013) Mind States. Retrieved from [https://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/mind_states.html