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Treatment of Self-Sabotage: The Prognosis is Good!

Practical Tips for Seeking Professional Therapy or Self Help

(Disclaimer: I have no financial or personal connection to the books or authors recommended in this blog, and I do not receive any royalties from purchases of these books. I recommend them because they are good!)

I've been getting a few emails about what are some basic steps that people can take to work on overcoming their self-sabotaging behavior. There is a lot of junk out there (with no actual science behind it) on how to overcome these problems, so part of the reason I started this blog was to help get a better, science-based understanding of these problems to the public, and provide directions to the best treatment methods out there. So today I'm going to provide a brief overview of steps you can take with both professional treatment and working on self-help.

Professional Therapy

When seeking professional help from a therapist for self-sabotaging behavior, the most effective and helpful treatment currently available is a specific kind of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This therapy is specifically designed for problems with intense emotions, impulsive behaviors, and difficulties with other people (as well as for a condition known as borderline personality disorder, which I will be discussing in a blog soon). Numerous studies have found DBT to be a very helpful therapy, and my personal experience with providing the therapy is that it works very well. The difficulty is finding a provider of DBT in your area because DBT is somewhat new and not as widely practiced as other therapies. When you have a moment, please go to the following link for Behavioral Tech, LLC:

This link describes what DBT is, and especially important, if you click on the pink "Clinician Resource Directory" tab toward the top, you can do a search and potentially find qualified DBT providers in your area.

Although I intend to dedicate a few posts to DBT, let me give you a brief description of how the therapy works. In the most simplified way of understanding it, with DBT provides you with a deeper understanding of your emotions and behaviors, and you learn skills to help you overcome arguments with others, self-injury, problematic eating behaviors and many other behaviors. You will also learn a variety of skills for how to deal with difficult people in your life, how to manage difficult emotional states, and how to analyze your emotional and behavioral patterns in a way that helps you change them. Pursuing DBT is my #1 recommendation for anyone seeking professional therapy.


If you are unable to find a DBT service provider, unsure if DBT is for you, unsure if therapy is for you, or you don't have financial means to pursue therapy, there are a number of books that I would recommend to help with overcoming your self-sabotaging behaviors. This approach is less ideal than therapy, but it can certainly be a good place to start! Here are some books I highly reccomend:

Don't Let You Emotions Run Your Life: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control - by Scott Spradlin

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, & Distress Tolerance - by Matthew McKay, Jeffery Wood, and Jeffery Brantley

Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder - by Marsha Linehan

Now I have one additional book to recommend. Because self-sabotage involves a variety of different behaviors, DBT doesn't necessarily cover all types of these behaviors. Common examples of self-sabotaging behaviors that might be helped by DBT, but also might benefit from more traditional cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) are things such as procrastination, anxiety/worry behaviors, and depressive behaviors. Now DBT could certainly help with these behaviors, but if you would like a more traditional CBT self-help approach, try the following books:

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy - by David Burns

The Feeling Good Handbook - by David Burns

I recommend these books because I think anyone would benefit from reading them, especially people who have troubles with self-sabotage, and one study found that just reading through this book was at least as helpful as 4 therapy sessions, and the effects of reading the book were longer lasting than the brief therapy (Stice, Burton, et al., 2006; Behaviour Research and Therapy). With the low cost of this book compared to the benefit of its contents, that's a pretty economical option!

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