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What Skills Do Teens Learn in DBT?

a young man and a therapist practice dbt skills for teens

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based mental health therapy. Since its original application in treating borderline personality disorder, it has proven effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions. Clients learn different skills over the course of therapy sessions that help them find a healthy middle ground. DBT skills for teens in treatment are similar to those adults learn, just with a few modifications to the treatment delivery.

Dialectical Means Middle Ground

Understanding DBT starts with an understanding of the dialectical method. The dialectical method pairs opposite perspectives and works to find a synthesis or middle ground. This method is often used in philosophy, but it has also been applied to psychotherapy.

Individuals living with borderline personality disorder (BPD), depression, and trauma-related conditions often have difficulty existing in a gray area. They often tend to only think in black-and-white terms, leading to extreme and often harmful behaviors. DBT helps individuals develop the capacity for understanding and accepting opposing viewpoints, leading them toward a more balanced perspective.

Four Primary DBT Skills for Teens

Dialectical behavior therapy can help teens as they learn four core modules, each tailored to address specific aspects of the adolescent experience:

  1. Mindfulness – The foundation of DBT, mindfulness, teaches teens to live in the moment, develop an awareness of their thoughts and feelings, and respond to life’s challenges with grace rather than impulsivity.
  2. Distress tolerance – Life inevitably presents obstacles. Distress tolerance skills empower teens to manage stress and discomfort without resorting to self-destructive behaviors. These tools are vital in building resilience and fostering a sense of inner peace.
  3. Emotion regulation – By understanding and managing their emotions, teens gain control over their moods and reactions. This module helps prevent emotional extremes and supports stable, balanced responses to life’s ups and downs.
  4. Interpersonal effectiveness – Positive relationships are a cornerstone of mental health. This module focuses on enhancing communication, assertiveness, and the ability to set healthy boundaries, ensuring teens can form and maintain rewarding relationships.

As teens learn DBT skills, they can apply them outside of therapy sessions. With practice, these skills become second nature and integral to their daily lives.

Improving School and Family Relationships

DBT is especially effective in helping teens improve their relationships with those around them, including parents and teachers. By learning to regulate emotions and effectively communicate, they can better navigate conflicts at home and in school. This, in turn, can lead to improved grades, decreased behavioral issues, and a more positive outlook on the future.

Additionally, DBT teaches teens how to handle peer pressure more effectively and make healthy choices. This can be especially beneficial during the teenage years when adolescents are faced with many difficult decisions.

The Family First Difference

At Family First, we believe in the power of these DBT skills to not only address specific mental health conditions but also to equip teens with lifelong competencies. Our program extends beyond mere treatment; it’s an educational journey that empowers teens to excel academically, thrive socially, and grow personally under the guidance of our dedicated team.

With over 120 years of collective clinical experience and a staff-to-client ratio of 3:1, we ensure personalized care that respects each teen’s unique path to wellness and recovery. Our expansive range of therapies, including expressive art, equine, and trauma therapy, complements the DBT framework, offering teens multiple avenues to explore their strengths and heal.

Find Help with Behavioral Therapy for Teens at Family First

We are committed to helping teens and their families find lasting healing and hope through our DBT programming. Contact us online or call 888.904.5947 today and find out how our treatment approach can support your teen’s mental health journey. With DBT skills, they can find a healthy middle ground and live a fulfilling life.