DBT: Chain Link Analysis


I haven’t started my DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) yet but in order to help me control my dangerous impulses I’ve done some of these with Nora. We’re probably not doing it 100% properly but if you find yourself about to do something which you know you shouldn’t then this is surely worth a shot. If anyone has any links to better, easy access resources about chain link analysis then it’d be fab if you’d share them.

So there are a series of questions which you answer. You write your answers. They key to getting this right is answering in excruciating detail. Yes the instructions actually say excruciating and, having done it, it certainly is. I squirm and cry as I answer these questions. When answering the detail should be such that someone else could completely re-enact the event using what you have written. You should think about:

  • How you felt
  • What did you see 
  • What were you doing
  • Any smells
  • What thoughts were you having 
  • What words were you saying
  • What could you hear
  • What physical sensations did you have?

Think about each of these when you answer the following:

  1. Describe the problem behaviour. For example this might be cutting or getting drunk or losing your temper etc. It should be about a specific event so not cutting in general but that you want to do it right now.
  2. What has caused you to want to do this? So what’s been happening in the run up to this. 
  3. What are the things that have made you vulnerable? So it might be things like tiredness, extra stress, a sick child, being alone. 
  4. Write down the chain of events. Personally I find it easier to start where I’m at (eg I’m sat here with a knife) and then work backwards (eg I got the knife from…). I try and add the details from the bullets above eg I felt excited and guilty getting the knife, my hands were shaking.
  5. What are the consequences? What will happen if you do this thing? I find I really have to think hard about this because when I’m in that bad place I think that it doesn’t matter. 
  6. What solutions are there to this problem? I’m not so good at this but do try and think – what else could you try before doing this thing?
  7. How could you prevent being in this situation again? I’ll be honest I’ve never gotten this far. I usually have calmed enough be then and I don’t actually know how to prevent it. As I say I haven’t done the DBT yet!
  8. What do you need to do to repair this situation? Practical steps to fix things. 

Ok so obviously there’s more to it than that. I don’t want to mislead anyone; doing this exercise isn’t the same as having DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy). I’ve put here as advice really to help people when they’re stuck in that awful place, with no one to ask for help and urges that are overpowering. I was in that place this morning. I don’t write this from a sanctimonious place (I hope). I get it. Please don’t use this in place of getting proper therapy or support but do try it before you act on those urges. Sometimes it doesn’t work for me as I’m too petulant and don’t engage with it properly. Other times it works brilliantly. I show Nora my answers as it helps her to understand my state of mind at that time. It is awful when she reads it. It’s so raw and personal but it’s the reality of this illness and I will face it.

For additional support there is also the  National Self Harm Network website. I recommend it.

So I hope you find it useful if you find yourself in that bad place. From the bottom of my heart: stay safe. 

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