According to statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six to ten percent of adolescents in the United States ages 12 to 17 reported some form of mental health issue between 2016 and 2019. Taking into account the 42 million adolescents in this country, there are nearly 4.2 million kids who can benefit from professional support. For some of them, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can help.
From the psychological to the holistic to the neuroscientific, the mental health industry offers many forms of therapy for mitigating and managing mental health issues. At Clearview Girls Academy, we offer many of them ourselves. One of the therapies we find particularly effective for our students who are struggling with intense negative emotions is DBT.
What Exactly Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
With so many advancements in the field of mental health, it is no surprise that those outside the professional realm are unaware of all of the therapeutic options. In fact, for many people, simply mentioning the word “therapy” evokes images of Sigmund Freud writing on a notepad as some morose fellow lays on a red velvet smoking couch. Fortunately, things are done quite a bit differently now.
DBT is a form of cognitive therapy that focuses primarily on populations of people who feel very intense emotions. Originally designed to help people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), this therapy is now used to treat a variety of mental health disorders. At its core, it is a “talk therapy” that aims to help an individual change and/or regulate the behaviors that they associate with certain emotions and thought patterns.
This therapy is also unique in that it focuses on acceptance. The individual needs to come to terms with where they are emotionally at the current moment. Then, they can begin to understand how their situation can positively change through the different actions and steps encouraged by the DBT therapist.
How Can Dialectical Behavior Therapy Help?
Many parents come to us because their daughter is exhibiting behaviors that are detrimental not only to her well-being but also to those around them. Specifically, we are referring to the familial setting. One of the important factors to take into account is that often these behaviors have deeper root causes.
DBT (utilized in tandem with our other recovery tools) can help by grounding the student back into reality. This is not done in an aggressive or accusatory way. Rather, it is done through thoughtful and empathetic communication. Once a student achieves this level of connection with the therapist and with themselves, then they can begin investigating the deeper emotions that are linked to their negative behaviors.
Once better connected to their emotions, a student can begin working on them using several practices. These techniques include (but are not limited to) mindfulness practices, which can help center the student in the here and now. Another method is called “interpersonal effectiveness,” which helps the student set boundaries and better communicate their needs. Lastly, they can work on regulating their emotions, which helps them better control their behaviors in stressful situations.
Integrating Dialectical Behavior Therapy in a Recovery Plan
While there may be some recovery centers that focus solely on DBT, we feel it is most effective when integrated into a broader plan of recovery. Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we have multiple treatment tools and resources that we use to facilitate a broader recovery plan.
We like to focus on three aspects of recovery: the behavioral, the academic, and the spiritual. Let us show you how DBT can be integrated into all of them.
Those struggling with academic achievement can use DBT to bring better focus to their studies. They can also learn to better communicate with their instructors when they are struggling. Behaviorally, as previously mentioned, DBT can help a student better regulate their emotions so they can better handle their behaviors in trying situations. When it comes to spiritual growth, we find that DBT can help create a clearer mindset that makes the connection to God or a higher power more accessible.
The Individualized Approach at Clearview Girls Academy
Although we mentioned statistics at the beginning of this article, we see our students as individuals rather than numbers. We take a truly individualized approach to our students, from their initial assessment to their post-residential planning.
As we noted earlier, over 4.2 million kids are struggling with their mental health in America. How we wish we could help them all. Unfortunately, that is just not the reality. However, when it comes to your child, we feel we can help. Any child who no longer struggles with their mental health is one step closer to a future where those numbers don’t feel so grim.
Just as no individual is the same, no individual’s mental health issues are identical. While no one’s level of mental wellness should ever be minimized, there is a spectrum of severity when it comes to certain symptoms. This is why there are many forms of treatments and therapies to treat many different individuals’ needs. For those who are experiencing extreme levels of emotional distress, including thoughts of self-harm or suicide, dialectical behavior therapy may be able to help. This variation of talk therapy is especially effective for vulnerable populations who are exhibiting these dangerous behaviors. If your daughter is struggling, we can help. Please call Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484 for more information.