DBT Skills: Bridge Burning

Last week in DBT class we talked about Bridge Burning. In DBT, this means removing the “bridge” between the impulse and the harmful behaviour. For many of us, we have a direct and open line from our impulse to engage in a behaviour and acting on this behaviour (as pictured below).

DBT- Bridge 1

The goal is the eliminate this “bridge” so the impulse stays as just a feeling and we put something in the way so the harmful behaviour doesn’t happen (as pictured below).

DBT- Bridge 2

This doesn’t only include utilizing in the moment distress tolerance skills (ie: distraction, self-soothing) but also preventative skills which can help make using skills in the moment easier.

In class, we went over ways in which we could burn the bridges to avoid drug and alcohol use, self-harm, spending and staying in hopeless relationships I will list them here for your information as I have only had to burn bridges for self-harm and hopeless relationships (what I’ve done is highlighted) but the other behaviours are important to know about.

Burn the bridge for Drugs and Alcohol by:

  • Removing all drugs and alcohol from living space.
  • Removing related paraphernalia.
  • Finding new routes that do not take you past triggering places.
  • Removing people who trigger substance use.

Burn the bridge for Self-harm by:

  • Removing self-harm tools.
  • Telling others when you feel unsafe and need help.
  • Going to the hospital BEFORE acting on urges.
  • Keeping medications locked up and dispensed as needed by a trusted person.

Burn the bridge for Spending by:

  • Cutting up credit cards or freeze them in water so you have to wait for it to melt before you can use it (gives you time to think).
  • Have someone you trust keep your money when your urges are intense.
  • Stay away from places you would typically spend.
  • Having someone create your online shopping passwords.
  • Set parental controls on websites.

Burn the bridge for Hopeless Relationships by:

  • Erasing their phone number from your phone.
  • Blocking their phone number or email (route to junk mail in you cannot block).
  • Filling your free time with healthy activities and people.


What have you done to burn the bridge between your impulses and harmful behaviours?



27 thoughts on “DBT Skills: Bridge Burning

  1. My husband keeps my meds locked up in a small safe with a combination (that I can’t figure out, for the LIFE of me). I’ve been hospitalized twice for suicide attempts and I know, without doubt, that I wouldn’t be able to count how many more times that scenario would have played out, if the medications weren’t locked away. Actually, I truly believe I wouldn’t be here to count how many more times it would have happened. I know I wouldn’t have failed the 3rd time around. You live and learn. No pun intended.

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