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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that “mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day.” Research has found that one teen out of every five teenagers has a diagnosable mental health disorder, in the United States. Many teenagers struggle with emotional instability, also known as emotional dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation is a term used within the mental health field to denote irrational, poorly modulated emotional responses. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is evidence-based psychotherapy. It was developed by Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s, intended to be used as a means to better treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It has since been rendered an effective method of treatment for many other mental health conditions and is particularly helpful in treating issues related to emotional dysregulation. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy combines strategies from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with a mindfulness-based approach. DBT emphasizes the psychosocial aspect of treatment. The philosophical perspective of dialectics, balancing opposites, influences the DBT process. According to the Child Mind Institute, “it is an intensive, highly structured program that’s been adapted specifically for adolescents with extreme emotional instability, including self-harm and suicidal ideation.” DBT relies on teaching skills in four main areas that help young people learn to regulate their emotions and behaviors. They are called the four modules of DBT and include the following, provided by Behavioral Tech

  • Core Mindfulness: learning to be present and fully aware in the moment
  • Distress Tolerance: learning to tolerate pain in challenging situations, without changing it or escalating it
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: learning to manage and deal with primary emotional reactions before they have a chance to turn into distressing secondary reactions
  • Emotion Regulation: learning to honor boundaries, and advocate for one’s wants and needs in relationships in a way that is both self-respecting and non-damaging 

DBT is comprised of three different therapeutic settings which include weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, weekly DBT skills training group sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. The one-on-one therapy sessions allow a teen to work in a co-creative fashion with his or her mental health clinician to identify prohibitive, damaging, and maladaptive thoughts and behaviors. Through positive reinforcement, individual therapy sessions motivate change and emphasize a teen’s strengths, which helps to repair and improve his or her sense of self. The weekly DBT skills training group sessions

provide teens with an opportunity to learn DBT skills alongside other teens experiencing similar challenges. Group members are encouraged to share their experiences and provide mutual support. Through DBT a teen will learn mindfulness-based skills to gain control over his or her emotions. This allows for healthier relationships and improves interpersonal skills.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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