Skip to main content

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy that is founded on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and blends Eastern mindfulness techniques (e.g., awareness, mindfulness, and attentiveness to current situations and emotional experiences) to encourage acceptance and change. Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed DBT in the late 1980s as a means to more effectively treat chronically suicidal adults diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT continues to be the gold standard form of treatment for adults with BPD and has also shown efficacy in treating other mental health ailments such as substance use disorder, bulimia, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more. The purpose of DBT is to provide clients with new skills to manage painful emotions and reduce conflicts in relationships. The therapeutic approach consists 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 the weekly individual and group sessions.

Wavefront DBT Clinic

The Wavefront DBT Clinic is a clinical program “within the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry that targets high risk, multi-problem adolescents.” This program specializes in identifying and treating depressed adolescents who engage in risky behavior including self-injury, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, substance use, bingeing and purging, risky sexual behavior, physical fighting, and other forms of risk-taking. The Wavefront DBT program uses an adaptation that aligns with the work of Alec Miller and Jill Rathus, who originally modified DBT for use with adolescents and young adults. The Wavefront DBT program focuses on teaching applicable skills for navigating challenges in the following five key areas:

  • Confusion about self
  • Impulsivity
  • Emotional instability
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Parent-teen problems

The Wavefront DBT Clinic is a comprehensive outpatient service that consists of four components. The Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics explain this multidimensional program is carried out through the following four components:

  1. Weekly multifamily skills group (24 weeks): Teens learn skills to help them cope with the five problem areas identified above and to help in decreasing their target behavior (e.g., cutting, purging, etc.)
  2. Weekly individual therapy: Teens learn to generalize the skills they are learning in a group and gain greater insight into the cognitions and vulnerabilities which contribute to their problem behaviors
  3. Family therapy: Individual therapists may schedule collateral family sessions as needed
  4. Emergency paging system for coaching: Teens are encouraged to contact their therapist for skills coaching before engaging in their target behavior. Parents learn many of the same skills their teen is learning, as well as others to help improve family functioning

The Wavefront DBT program is intended to reduce self-harming and other dangerous behavior in adolescents with depression who demonstrate some traits of borderline personality disorder that are beyond that expected of typical adolescent development. The Wavefront DBT Clinic accepts most major health insurance plans and has recently negotiated single-case agreements with Kaiser Permanente, which is the largest not-for-profit managed care organization in America.

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.

Back to top