Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Adolescents

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that aims to teach teens and adolescents how to cope with stress in a healthy way, regulate their emotions, live in the moment, and improve their relationships with others. Initially, DBT was a treatment for borderline personality disorder. Since then, it has been adapted for the treatment of other conditions.

DBT can help teens who struggle with emotional regulation or exhibit self-destructive behavior. Examples of self-destructive behavior that can be treated with dialectical behavior therapy are eating and substance use disorders. Therapists might also use DBT to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Techniques for Teens

The evolution of DBT has led it to be an evidence-based approach used in psychotherapy. It’s used to treat several conditions. Settings where therapists in Dedham, MA, may incorporate dialectical behavior therapy include the following:

  • Group therapy in which patients learn behavioral skills as a group.
  • Individual therapy is where a trained professional helps the individual adapt their learned behavioral skills to fit their personal life.
  • Phone coaching in which patients and therapists speak between sessions. The individual calls the professional to request guidance in dealing with a hard situation they are dealing with.

Strategies and techniques that professionals use in DBT for adolescents include the following:

  1. Core Mindfulness: An important benefit of DBT is the individual begins to develop mindfulness skills. Mindfulness allows people to notice the things happening within, like thoughts, feelings, and impulses. It also allows individuals to use their senses to pay attention to what is happening without judging others. These skills enable the client to slow down and focus on coping with emotions more healthily, and it can also help them remain calm rather than jumping to a negative thought pattern.
  2. Distress Tolerance: These skills help individuals accept their identity and situation. Distress tolerance techniques taught in dialectical behavior therapy include distraction, self-soothing, improving the moment, and thinking of the pros and cons of not tolerating distress. These techniques help individuals prepare for their intense emotions and give them positive ways to cope with them.
  3. Interpersonal Effectiveness: This technique is used to help individuals learn how to be more assertive when they are in a relationship without damaging the relationship. People will learn to listen and communicate effectively, respect themselves and others, and deal with difficult people.
  4. Emotion Regulation: This technique helps people navigate powerful feelings more effectively. The learned emotion regulation skills help individuals identify, name, and change their emotions. As people learn to recognize and deal with intense emotions like anger, it lessens their vulnerability emotionally, and they begin to have more positive emotional experiences.

Closing Thoughts

One of the benefits of DBT for adolescents in Dedham, MA, is the resolution of the contradiction between acceptance of themselves and the need to change. Those who feel validated through dialectical behavior therapy are more likely to cooperate with the process and achieve the desired results.