DBT-A is Dialectical Behavior Therapy designed for adolescents and teens. It is based on the understanding that difficulty managing emotions can lead to impulsive actions, poor decision-making, and destructive behaviors. These behaviors may serve to relieve distress in the short term but in the long term, can be damaging to physical health, self-esteem, relationships, and overall quality of life.
DBT-A focuses on teaching a broad range of skills for coping that replace familiar behaviors that negatively impact the quality of life. With treatment, the teen gains a broader repertoire of tools to help cope when challenges arise.
DBT-A teaches five skill modules:
Comprehensive DBT-A consists of 4 components:
*If the treatment has 1-3 components, it is considered DBT-informed.
DBT-A is evidenced-based for teens and differs from DBT for adults in several ways. DBT-A added a fifth skills module “Walking the Middle Path” with the goal of increasing problem-solving skills, learning validation and effectively managing differences of opinion with family members. Caregivers may be included in skills training sessions or have their own separate skill training sessions. Caregivers will also be part of individual therapy at times or be included through additional family sessions. Therapists provide phone coaching to the caregivers in addition to the adolescent. Caregiver involvement is important in determining efficacy of the treatment.
Adolescents and teens who benefit from DBT-A are often described by family members as:
Parents and teachers sometimes say that they have to “walk on eggshells” around these children in order to avoid explosions of feelings and behaviors. DBT-A addresses these issues through structured treatment to improve upon their abilities and the abilities of their families to increase flexible thinking, and gain more control over their big feelings and behaviors. DBT-A also helps adolescents and teens learn how to make and keep appropriate friendships and relationships with other people.
DBT-A has helped adolescents and teenagers who struggle with any or all the following: