Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): Urge Surfing
Urge surfing is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy technique that can be used to cope with maladaptive behaviors. Instead of giving into an urge, you will “ride it out”, like how a surfer rides a wave. Eventually, the urge will naturally go away.
Urge surfing can be used to reduce or eliminate the use of alcohol and/or substances, help emotional reactions, gambling, self-mutilation, and much more.
Just like a wave, the urge comes and goes. The urge has a starting point or “trigger”, gradually builds up to a “rise”, has its “peak”, and “falls”.
Trigger: An urge is triggered by a thought, person, place, or feeling.
Rise: The urge starts to get more intense. The rate at which this can happen varies.
Peak: The urge reaches its most intense point. This is usually the most unbearable part of the
urge, because it feels like it is never going to end.
Fall: The urge becomes less intense and begins going away.
Practicing Urge Surfing
Acknowledge you are having an urge.
Practice radical acceptance of the urge. Radical acceptance is the process of accepting your thoughts or feelings about the urge without trying to change them or ignore them.
Important things to remember:
o It’s okay to have urges. It is a natural reaction to addictions and habits.
o Some discomfort is normal. Remember that the discomfort is temporary and will
go away eventually.
o It is your choice whether to act on an urge. You can’t control the feeling you’re
experiencing, but you can control your actions following that feeling.
o All urges will eventually pass on their own. They don’t last forever, even though
it may feel that way in the moment.
Other Ways to Resist Urges
Be aware of your triggers. Have a plan in place to help you in case if you encounter one of your triggers.
When you are experiencing an urge, do something to take your mind off it.
o Examples: Go for a walk, listen to your favorite music, talk to a close friend,
spend time with your pet.
Alyssa Wence is a Mental Health Counselor Student Intern at Cypress Wellness Center. She works with children (ages 6 and up), teens, adults, couples and families. She has experience working with mental health crises and with clients with a variety of struggles such as depression, anxiety, and trauma. Click here to schedule an appointment.