Changing problem behaviors requires that you understand and investigate what is happening when the behavior occurs. When you discuss problems in therapy, it’s critical to know if you are sad when you have the urge to self-injure or feeling threatened when you take a drink. Information about how you think and feel when you are most vulnerable is essential to the therapy process.
Most often behaviors such as self-destructiveness, aggression, substance use problems and other impulse behaviors happen at times of high stress and intense emotions. And stress and emotion both have a significant impact on memory. They interfere our ability to accurately remember events and skew what we do remember.
Diary cards, in DBT, are central to investigating and understanding problems that are being targeted in individual therapy. They are completed during the course of the week–as emotions, events and problematic behaviors occur—with the intent of improving memory. If targeted behaviors have occurred, they are discussed in therapy. If patterns emerge, they are investigated in therapy.