Ah, the S.T.O.P skill. S.T.O.P is one of many skills utilized in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. This skill in particular is part of what DBT categorizes as a Distress Tolerance skill. A primary function of Distress Tolerance skills is to get you to a place of problem-solving instead of problem creation. So let’s break down the skill:
S - STOP. Literally, just stop! Don’t move an inch. Just pump the breaks.
T - Take a step back from the situation, take a few deep breaths, and don’t jump right in and react. For example, even the most skilled firefighters have to take a step back and survey the scene before they enter a burning building. How unsafe and unwise would it be if they just made a run for it because they could see the immediate danger?
O - Observe. Observe and notice what is going on both internally and externally. What is the real situation? What are you thinking and feeling? What are other people saying or doing?
P - Proceed Mindfully. Act with awareness. When deciding what to do, consider your thoughts and feelings, consider the situation in its entirety, think about your goals and ask yourself what action will make it better or worse?
Amy Pope-Latham, LCSW is a clinical psychotherapist in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.