Diary Card Definition

Diary Card Explanation

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A sample diary card is on page 32 of the skills manual and is also available on this website as "Diary Card Sample #1." Alternate diary card samples are also on the site and you can download them in MS Word document format to print or edit for a more personalized card. Typically, DBT clients copy the two pages of the card onto a single sheet of paper, double-sided.

Side One

One side of the diary card lists 23 key skills. Skill number 1 is Wise Mind. Two through six are the Core Mindfulness Skills.  These skills underlie everything else that we do, and you will probably find yourselves working on them all through the program. Some of you may find that you have a pretty good handle on some of the skills already.  In that case, you might just want to keep an eye on them, and see how they fit with newer skills.

It is important to not start tracking the skills until you have an understanding of each skill.  So you should start with Wise Mind, and just think about that first.

Working on skills can take many forms. It can be setting yourself an exercise or task to do which uses the skill. It can mean talking about it with your therapist.  It can mean noticing when you do or don't use it.  If you are working on non-judgmentalness, you might observe a situation in which you are nonjudgmental, or one in which you are judgmental. You might think about a situation or a relationship, say with someone at work, where you are often quite judgmental, and you might decide to work on becoming less judgmental there.  You might just think about situations where you are judgmental or not. There are many ways to practice. Working on a skill does not necessarily mean that you will be successful. It simply means that you gave it some attention during the day.

The point of doing the diary card is to keep reminding yourself of some of the important skills, and to track how you are doing with them. Don't judge yourself. Do it to help yourself.  It is also a help in communicating quickly to your therapist what's going on with you and the skills. If you miss a day, don't worry. Just keep doing the best you can.

Side Two

The other side of the card allows you to observe urges and feelings. It is meant to last a week, so you can put the date in each of the boxes in the first column.


The next four columns are titled:


Over-the Counter Medications

Prescription Medications

Street/ Illicit Drugs

#  Specify

#  Specify

#  Specify

#  Specify

You are being asked in these four columns to keep a record of whether you abused any of these. You can indicate in the small box, under #, how many incidents of abuse you had on a particular day, and in the bigger box, under Specify, make a short note about what happened.



Day Rating


Over-the Counter Medications

Prescription Medications

Street/ Illicit Drugs


Mon. Jan. 11


3 beers to sleep




Mad at boyfriend.

The notes are just to keep you aware of situations or circumstances under which you abuse alcohol or drugs, or feelings you might have. Do whatever seems most useful here.
For people who don't have issues with one or more of these things, cross the item(s) out, and write in some other behavior you would like to track.
Among the things you might use are:  Getting Enough Sleep, Managing Finances, Obsessive Thinking, Negative Thinking, Setting Limits, Saying No, Mood Changes, or any other positive or negative behavior you want to track. You may make brief notes, or simply check to indicate that you had this behavior on this day.
These diary cards are for your own use, to track and notice your own behavior, so make them useful to you by looking at behaviors that are troublesome or important.

Feelings and Behaviors

The next three columns are :

Suicidal Ideation (0-5)

Misery (0-5)




Urges (0-5)

Action (Yes/No)

You are asked:

  1) To record if you had any suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide), by rating the intensity of your thoughts on a scale of 0-5.  (Sometimes people feel they need to divide up the scale more, for example, 2.5 or 3.5.)
  2) To rate your level of misery during the day on a scale of 0-5.  You may want to use an average level, or you may want to consider number 5 as the worst you've ever been and work your way down from there.  When you do this, you may want to take a look each week to see what your pattern was. How many pretty good days did you have, how many pretty bad? How does it change over time?
  3) To record the intensity of self-harm urges. If you have none, the intensity would be 0.  In the Action column, simply write whether or not you acted on the urges.
If you are not dealing with self-harm urges or suicidal ideation, you may use these columns for other issues.  I do suggest that you continue to keep a record of misery (or of happiness, if you wish).
You would only fill in the columns under "Therapist" if you are in therapy and/or a skills training group. You mark down the number of visits or classes, and the number of phone calls you made to a therapist or a skills trainer.
Using Skills

The last column, "Used Skills," takes some getting used to.  You are asked to mark in, for each day, how you approached skills. You may, especially in the beginning of doing this, simply write "0,"  "Not thought about or used."

(Follow the key in the teeny print at the bottom.) Read through the key. There is a progression there of ways to approach the skills.  Numbers 6 and 7 won't make much sense until you have been doing skills so long that they become automatic. If you worked on, or found yourself using skills a number of times during the day, you may have approached them in several different ways.  You may want to write "1,3,4" or "0,2,3,5".  You may write just "0" for quite a while, or  "3."

No one is going to correct or mark this card.  It is for your own use, so you can track what's going on and how you are progressing. This way of evaluating the skills takes some practice, but thinking about the skills in this way is a good way of reminding yourself and prompting yourself. There is no pass or fail here.  It is how it is. If, in the beginning, you find this difficult, give it a few weeks, and try again.

If you have a therapist, even if your therapist is not a DBT therapist, it would be useful to share this card with him or her.

*Note: you can also view samples of filled-in cards produced by Behavior Tech by clicking here.

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