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Dialectical behavior therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy treatment approach that was developed by Marsha M. Linehan, in the late 1980s. It was originally developed, to help treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and is now recognized as an effective therapeutic method for treating a wide range of other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder (SUD), eating disorders, and more. DBT is founded on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and blends Eastern mindfulness techniques such as awareness, mindfulness, and attentiveness to current situations and emotional experiences to encourage acceptance and change. DBT is comprised of three different therapy settings, including weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, weekly DBT skills training group therapy sessions, and as-needed phone coaching to provide additional support between weekly individual and group sessions. Dialectical behavior therapy helps teach teenagers healthy coping mechanisms and useful techniques for managing stress, regulating emotions, and improving relationships with others. 

DBT Skills Training Group Sessions

Research has found that the “DBT skills training group is effective in reducing symptoms for both adults with borderline personality disorder and adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder.” The DBT skills training group sessions are facilitated by a qualified mental health professional who will follow the lessons provided in the DBT curriculum. Each session generally lasts about two hours long. These group sessions are focused on enhancing the capabilities of each participant by teaching behavioral skills related to the four modules that make up the pillars of DBT. Each of these four key areas focuses on distinct and specific skills that build upon each other and are integral to one’s healing process. The modules of DBT include the following, provided by the Linehan Institute:

  1. Core Mindfulness (focusing skills): the practice of being fully aware and wholly present in the current moment
  2. Distress Tolerance (crisis survival skills): learning tools and techniques to accept, find meaning through, and tolerate distress
  3. Interpersonal Effectiveness (relationship/ people skills): learning assertive communication methods that enable an individual to engage with others in a way that maintains self-respect and simultaneously strengthens relationships
  4. Emotion Regulation (de-escalation skills): learning to recognize, label, and adjust emotions to assist in regulating emotions and subsequently changing reactions to events

These group sessions offer participants an emotionally safe environment to begin to implement the DBT skills alongside other teenagers working on similar issues. Group members are encouraged to share their experiences and provide mutual support, which can be invaluable to the therapeutic process. The work that occurs during the DBT skills training group sessions continues, as homework that corresponds to the DBT skills taught or visited during each DBT group session is regularly assigned. 

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.