STOP Skill

The STOP Skill in DBT Emotional Regulation is helpful in crisis management and useful in distressing and overwhelming situations. It helps one gain control over the situation and stands for: Stop, Take A Step Back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully.


In the event of an emotional crisis, when you feel your emotions are spiraling out of control, the first step is to physically stop whatever you are doing. This involves putting a pause on any impulsive or reactive behavior associated with strong emotions. In fact, literally freeze your mind to prevent your emotions from controlling you and making you act impulsively.

Take A Step Back

Describe and label the situation, then create some physical and mental distance from it, including what’s triggering your intense emotions. Give yourself some time and practice some deep breathing to regain a sense of calm and control. Whatever happens, do not let your emotions get the better of you. Instead, assess the situation and give yourself time to make a better decision or response.


Actively observe and describe what is happening within and around you. Identify the emotions you are experiencing without judgment. Pay attention to those around you, what they may be saying, thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, in a mindful and non-reactive manner. Listen to Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs), which are reactions that can compel you to perceive a situation in a negative way. Observing helps you not jump to conclusions, but to consider the facts of the situation and explore options for a positive response.

Proceed Mindfully

Once you’ve stopped, taken a step back, and observed, make a mindful and intentional choice about how to proceed. Ask yourself what is your take on the situation? what outcome can you expect? and what are the possible actions that could make the situation better or worse? Explore solution for a positive outcome by considering your goals, values, and the most effective way to respond to the situation without being driven solely by intense emotions.