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What Makes Life Worth Living: A DBT Perspective

Close up of a black woman with a bouquet of flowers who is embodying the DBT concept of a life worth living.Life is a precious gift, but it’s not always easy to recognize its value, especially when we’re in a pit of depression. When we’re going through tough times, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For clients struggling with suicidal thoughts, it may feel like there’s no point in continuing to live. However, in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), therapists use a unique question to help clients find meaning and purpose in their lives: “what does a life worth living look like for you?”

The idea of a “life worth living” may seem simple, but it’s a powerful tool in helping clients with suicidal ideation. It’s the belief that life has meaning and that every person has the potential to live a fulfilling and satisfying life. For clients who are struggling with thoughts of suicide, the concept of “life worth living” can be a beacon of hope in the darkness.

In this blog, we’ll explore what makes life worth living from a DBT perspective, and how this concept can help clients find hope, purpose, and meaning in their lives. We’ll dive into the practical tools and techniques that therapists use in DBT to help clients build such a life. and explore how this approach can be applied in real-world situations. Whether you’re a therapist working with clients struggling with suicidal thoughts or someone who’s struggling themselves, this blog will provide insights and strategies to help you find your own path to a fulfilling life. So let’s dive in and explore what makes life worth living!


Beginning with the Basics: What is a “Life Worth Living”?

According to DBT, a “life worth living” is a life that is satisfying and fulfilling, one that is worth living despite the challenges and hardships that may come with it. It’s about finding meaning and purpose in one’s life and is a central focus of DBT therapy. The concept of a life worth living is not a one-size-fits-all approach; rather, it’s a personalized and individualized process that each client works towards. It’s about understanding and clarifying one’s values and building a life that is consistent with those values. While social media and peer pressure may cause us to compare our lives with others, finding your “life worth living” forces you focus on your self, your own goals, and what you can be grateful for.

DBT therapists help their clients develop a life to be proud of by focusing on four main areas: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. These four areas work together to help clients build a life that is satisfying and fulfilling, even in the face of adversity.

Mindfulness: The Foundation of a Life Worth Living

The first step towards building a life worth living is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of awareness in which one is fully present in the moment, without judgment or distraction. It’s about maintaining an intentional awareness and experiencing life as it is, without trying to change it or escape from it.

In DBT, mindfulness is the starting point for developing the skills and strategies needed to build a fulfilling life. Through mindfulness, clients learn to observe their thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. They learn to become more aware of their surroundings and to fully engage with the world around them.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: Connecting with OthersImage of a woman laying on top of another in a moment of emotional intimacy, representing effective use of the Interpersonal effectiveness DBT skill.

The next step towards building a life worth living is developing interpersonal effectiveness. Interpersonal effectiveness is the ability to communicate effectively with others, to set boundaries, and to maintain healthy relationships. It’s about learning to connect with others in a way that is authentic and fulfilling.

Clients that embrace interpersonal effectiveness learn to use healthy communication skills that allow them to express their needs and wants in a way that is clear and effective. These skills in boundary-setting pave the way for relationships that are supportive and enjoyable.

Emotion Regulation: Managing Emotions

The third step towards building a life worth living is emotion regulation. Emotion regulation is the ability to manage one’s emotions in a healthy and effective way. It’s about learning to recognize and accept one’s emotions, and to respond to them in a way that is constructive rather than reacting blindly to them.

DBT clients learn to develop emotional awareness and identify the underlying causes of their emotions. They also learn strategies for regulating their emotions, such as mindfulness, relaxation, and cognitive restructuring.

Distress Tolerance: Coping with Stressful Situations

The fourth and final step towards building a life worth living is distress tolerance. Distress tolerance is the ability to cope with stressful situations without turning to unhelpful coping skills or numbing agents (like alcohol, mindless scrolling, or sleep). It’s about learning to tolerate discomfort and uncertainty and to respond to difficult situations in an intentional way.

Distress tolerance strategies for coping with stressful situations include deep breathing, visualization, and self-soothing techniques. Clients embodying distress tolerance also learn to accept their emotions and experiences and to find ways to stay grounded and centered in the face of adversity.

Image of a hip man enjoying a treat at a coffee shop while speaking on the phone—all small but important aspects of his life worth living.

Find Your Life Worth Living with Suffolk DBT

Returning to these foundational DBT skills allows you to have perspective as you face challenges, and deal with them by breaking them into their smallest components. In DBT, complex problems are made simple, and detailed skills manuals and helpful acronyms can help you find your way to a life worth living.

For clients struggling with suicidal ideation, the concept can be a powerful tool for finding hope and meaning in their lives. It’s about understanding that there is always possibility and beauty to be found in life, despite the challenges and hardships that may come with it. Finding purpose and meaning is possible, and DBT involves building a set of skills that allows you to navigate life’s challenges with a roadmap of sorts.

Suffolk DBT provides expert Dialectical Behavior Therapy through individual and group therapy for adults, teens, and children in NYC, Long Island, and throughout the state. Our Manhattan CBT experts offer support for anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder, as well as eating disorder treatment. We’d love to help you find your life worth living. Visit us online at and schedule your free consultation to get started.

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