Posted on

Wisdom in DBT – Finding Wise Mind (Part 2)

Wisdom in DBT – Finding Wise Mind (Part 2)

This feature by Randy Wolbert is the second part in his two-part series about wisdom in DBT and finding Wise Mind. Part 1 discussed what Wise Mind is and how we might communicate this concept to our clients. In this part, Randy explains the connection of Wise Mind with Zen and mindfulness.


In the first part of this feature on Wise Mind, we began to discuss what Wise Mind is.

Wise Mind is so much more than the synthesis of Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind.  Wise Mind is seeing and responding to what is.  

Dr. Marsha Linehan describes her experience in the practice of Zen as helping her crystalize the entire set of core mindfulness skills. 

One of her Zen teachers was the late Pat Hawk.  Marsha would put words around her own observations during meditation practice and Pat would confirm what was compatible with the practice of Zen.  Pat describes Wise Mind as coming home when homesick.

In spiritual practices, Wise Mind can also be called enlightenment, wisdom, compassion, and freedom—our essential being or true self. Since all things are in unity, Wise Mind means accessing the wisdom of the universe.  Marsha would illustrate this with a drawing of a water well dropping into the unlimited underground aquifer.  We and our clients are no longer alone, and we are able to share in the wisdom of the ages.

Finding Wise Mind is necessary for a life worth living. As described in the serenity prayer, Wise Mind is knowing the difference between what can, and what cannot, be changed.

As DBT practitioners we need to practice from our own Wise Mind.  Just like all of the other skills in DBT, it is not possible to adequately teach them unless they are practiced by the therapist. This means that the therapist should have their own mindfulness practice.

Being mindful not only requires some type of formal meditation practice, but it also requires that we bring the essence of mindfulness to everything that we do.  It is the ultimate form of staying awake when conducting therapy and going through life with our eyes wide open.  Only then can we effectively transmit the essence of finding our wisdom to our clients and helping them find their own inherent wisdom.  

Pat Hawk went on to say “Practice these things (wisdom, compassion, and freedom from desires) as if you already have them. And you will find you always did.” 

Once your clients discover the peace and clarity of the experience of Wise Mind they will be able to return to it over and over.  Finding Wise Mind just requires Practice, Practice, Practice.

Enjoy the journey!

For more on Zen Mindfulness in DBT, read here.


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.