Delayed Gratification

Practicing Delayed Gratification & Use of DBT in Treatment

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

In today’s culture the concept of delayed gratification appears to have an old-world feel to it. This culture encourages us to pursue band-aid solutions and instant gratification. Some of the mentality today is to do whatever it takes to alleviate discomfort now in sacrificing long term gains.

This is predominantly by the impact social media has on our lives. It’s also prevalent in get rich schemes, same day delivery, casinos, and commercials for psychiatric medications.


Our culture’s obsession with instant gratification does make things in life easier, but with all things it has a fundamental price tag. One of the first benefits of delayed gratification is that it develops motivation. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s a psychologist named Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments on children about self-control and delaying gratification. This was called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. The subjects were children around the age of six when the experiments began, and researchers followed the children throughout their lives. The kids were left alone in a room with a marshmallow for fifteen minutes. If they did not eat the marshmallow, they were told they could get two of them later.

Researchers found that the children who waited grew up to have higher levels of self-motivation than their peers who did not wait. In addition, they had fewer behavioral issues, were more dependable, and had much better grades. The lesson the Stanford Marshmallow experiment teaches is that being able to delay gratification leads to better success later in life. It strengthens the importance of having a lot of self-motivation.


“Putting off gratification can lead to better control over one’s impulses in just about every area of your life.”


Another benefit of delayed gratification is it teaches better impulse control for us as individuals. Poor impulse control is one of the most significant human traits that can contribute to the overall quality in one’s life. Impulse control can be a struggle living in our society but learning how to control our impulses is vital in our daily lives. Putting off gratification can lead to better control over one’s impulses in just about every area of your life.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) utilizes a cognitive-behavioral approach that helps address the psychosocial skills that are challenged due to lack of self-control and instant gratification. As clinicians, we see the benefits in using this therapy to teach impulse control, as well as emotional regulation skills. All in which are impacted by the individual’s ability to delay gratification. Teaching these skills are essential to recovery and healing from mental health and/or substance use disorder, but also are necessary life skills to manage many different facets that life brings.

“The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels.” (“An Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy” John M. Grohol, Psy.D.)

In other words, by teaching this skill in therapy or treatment, we teach the individual to practice the ability to slow down their reaction time and be in control of their actions. This is self-control with intention. By helping the individual slow down their “arousal levels” or reaction time, the individual becomes more in control with their decision making and emotional response. They in-turn can handle life problems head-on and be in control of their reaction despite the discomfort they may face. This confirms the research in supporting to greater success in the future by strengthening this life skill, and that directly impacts an individual’s self-motivation, to stay on track and not revert back to old ways due to instant gratification.


Ryan Lansdell
Counselor – MA, LAC, LCADC
North Warren Counseling Center


North Warren Counseling Center provides substance abuse treatment and mental health care for adults, adolescents and their families. Little Hill Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Alcoholics operates Alina Lodge, Haley House for Women, and North Warren Counseling Center for the purpose of helping people attain and maintain a life of sobriety.

Alina Lodge
61 Ward Road, Blairstown, NJ 07825

Alina Lodge is a premiere long term residential alcohol and drug addiction rehab facility specializing in the treatment of adults with a history of chronic relapse issues. More than just a 12 step program, our treatment program works where others have failed.

We treat all types of chemical dependency such as alcoholism and drug addictions including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, as well as prescription drug addiction. If you or a loved one struggles to stay sober, contact us today.

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