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Wisdom in DBT – Finding Wise Mind (Part 1)

Wisdom in DBT - Finding Wise Mind part 1

This feature by Randy Wolbert is the first part in a two-part series about wisdom in DBT and finding Wise Mind. In part 1, Randy discusses what Wise Mind is and how we might communicate the idea of Wise Mind to our clients.


The Venn diagram on States of Mind in DBT may be the most famous Venn diagram in all of psychotherapy. 

It is a graphic illustration of WISE MIND as existing as the overlap of reasonable mind with emotion mind.  It is often taught as a description of “what is Emotion Mind” and “what is Reasonable Mind” with Wise Mind containing some – but not all – of the elements of Reasonable and Emotion Mind. 

When we describe Wise Mind in this way, we are shortchanging the very meaning of this wisdom.  Wise Mind is being able to go deep within and intuitively know what the most effective course of action is to pursue. 

It is very important to realize that Wisdom (Wise Mind) is found experientially.  It is not found through our reasoning or our emotions.  Perhaps you have already noticed from the DBT Skills Training Manual (Linehan, 2015) that all the ideas for practicing Wise Mind are experiential in nature.

A lot of the time our clients will tell us that they don’t have a Wise Mind.  In fact, sometimes we have difficulty in locating our own Wise Mind.  The important thing to know and communicate to our clients and to our colleagues is that all sentient beings have a Wise Mind.  While we are not always successful at finding Wise Mind, it is always present. 

As a trainer for Behavioral Tech, I routinely visit Seattle.  Seattle, as you may know, is about 80 miles (130 KM) from Mt. Rainier.  On many days, clouds or fog obscure the view of the mountain and it is not visible from anywhere in the city.  Mt. Rainier did not actually disappear; the mountain did not move. Rainier was just not visible.  At times – like with Mt. Rainier – we are able to clearly see our Wise Mind.  Other times, our Wise Mind is obscured by our Emotion Mind or our Reasonable Mind. 

Wise Mind is not something you have to develop. It is always present; we just do not always access it.  Practicing the core mindfulness “What” and “How” skills are designed to assist you with being able to routinely access and act intuitively from Wise Mind.

Click here for part 2, in which Randy will talk about the connection of Wise Mind, Zen, and mindfulness.


Randy Wolbert, LMSW, CAADC, CCS is a DBT trainer with Behavioral Tech.  Randy has been practicing DBT since 1995 and was a contractual trainer with BTECH since 1998 and transitioned to a full time trainer/consultant in 2015. Read his full biography here.