Dialectical Behavior Therapy For Teens

Aug 17, 2023 | Uncategorized

Anxiety and depression are rising among America’s youth and—whether teenagers personally suffer from these conditions or not—a troubling 70 percent see them as a major problem among their peers. Just like adults, anxious, depressed, or traumatized teens may attempt to use drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with their emotional pain. 

In July, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and the Director of National Drug Control Policy Rahul Gupta warned in drastic terms that drugs and untreated mental health issues are killing our kids. “Every day brings more evidence that our nation’s youth are facing a mental health crisis: rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among young people are on the rise, and so are adolescent deaths from drug poisoning,” wrote Murthy and Gupta in an op-ed on USA Today

Avanti Behavioral Health provides cutting-edge addiction treatment and mental health care services for 13–18-year-olds and their families. One of the modalities utilized in our intensive outpatient program (IOP) for teenage clients is known as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). 

“Considerable research has been conducted on DBT for adolescents and adults, and multiple randomized controlled research trials have demonstrated its effectiveness,” explains the DBT page of the Child Mind Institute. “Current research suggests that DBT may also be effective for children and pre-adolescents (aged 8–13) who struggle with intense emotions, disruptive behaviors, and challenging relationships.”

DBT may help children, teenagers, and young adults who struggle with any of the following:

  • Impulsive/disruptive behaviors
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Self-injurious and suicidal behaviors
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Family and peer conflict
  • Anger outbursts
  • Eating disordered behaviors
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Poor coping skills

Initially, DBT emerged from efforts to treat personality disorders and interpersonal conflicts but then evolved into a process in which therapists and clients work with acceptance and change-oriented strategies, and ultimately balance and synthesize them—comparable to the philosophical dialectical process of thesis and antithesis followed by synthesis.

DBT combines elements of the better-known techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  with mindfulness practices to promote emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and self-acceptance. It empowers teens to develop a nonjudgmental and accepting attitude toward themselves while working toward positive change and personal growth. DBT has proven to be highly effective in addressing issues such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts, substance use, and struggles in relationships. It is effective in helping teens build resilience and improve their overall well-being.

Skills learned with DBT include:

  • Understanding, managing, and regulating emotions
  • Tolerating distress and crises without making problems bigger
  • Maintaining satisfying relationships 
  • Increasing self-awareness and managing emotional situations
  • Increasing problem-solving skills and managing differences of opinion with family members effectively

Providing young people and their families with the tools they need to thrive is a core aspect of the Avanti Behavioral Health mission. Our treatment program has been created with a focus on individualized care for each client. Each participant in the program receives a completely customized treatment process and each phase of the process is assessment driven. Our overall mission is to provide comprehensive, holistic, family-centered, and trauma-informed care for teens. 

We believe that recovery from a substance use disorder is a process that should involve the entire immediate family. We have developed an effective and highly involved method of family counseling. For more information about our IOP and family programming call us at (720) 753-4030. 

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