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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Teens and How Does It Work?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Clearview Girls Academy offers your girl professional therapy and 24/7 care for girls 12-18 who struggle with complex emotional or behavioral issues due to trauma or a major loss in their life. Clearview is the premier therapeutic center and boarding school for girls in crisis and provides a powerful combination of individualized and family therapy.

Please read the article below to learn more about DBT and how it treats emotional and behavioral issues and disorders that your daughter may need therapeutic help with now. Please inquire online or call us at (888) 416-3029.


History of DBT

DBT is a branch of psychotherapy that was originally developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD, as a way to treat individuals with suicidal thoughts who were diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). People with BPD often experience extremely intense emotions that can be difficult to manage and cause a great deal of chaos and conflict in their lives. They typically react with bursts of anger, crying, and passive-aggressive behaviors.

Borderline Personality Disorder can also manifest as poor self-image, disordered eating, substance use, instability in interpersonal relationships, lack of impulse control, and suicidal ideation. DBT was designed to help reduce these BPD symptoms. However, DBT skills are now used not just for BPD-related issues. They are also helpful in addressing maladaptive behaviors occurring as a result of other mental health conditions, including trauma, depression, and anxiety. Therefore, DBT has evolved to become a common treatment modality for children and adolescents.

The term “dialectical” comes from the idea that combining two opposites in therapy—acceptance and change—will produce better results than either one alone. One unique aspect of DBT is the focus on accepting a person’s experience as the first step in changing negative behaviors.


How Does Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Teens Work?

DBT research has shown that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is effective in treating many disorders, including teen substance use disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders. DBT is known for helping teens cope with and regulate their emotions.

In addition, DBT shares many concepts with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The main objective of DBT is first to stop a destructive behavior and then work on the negative thinking patterns that lead to that behavior. The goal of DBT for teens is to teach adolescents the skills they need to cope with and change unhealthy behaviors.

Adolescent DBT approaches typically have two main components: individual therapy sessions and DBT groups for teens. Individual sessions with teens emphasize problem-solving behavior for any issues or problematic behaviors. They also focus on decreasing and dealing with post-traumatic stress responses from previous trauma in the teen’s life. Moreover, DBT activities for youth also focus on improving their self-confidence and self-esteem.


What Does DBT for Teens Help With? 

Adolescent DBT skills are used to address a wide range of mental health conditions and behavioral disorders, including:

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Self-harm
  • Substance use disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anger issues
  • ADHD


The Four DBT Skills for Teens

Dialectical Behavioral TherapyIn group therapy sessions, which a trained DBT therapist leads, teens learn skills from one of four different DBT modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

·      Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an ancient practice that revolves around being aware, without judgment, of what’s happening in the present moment, both inside and around you. Over the past decade, mindfulness has become a key part of mental health treatment because of its many benefits to mental and emotional well-being. Studies suggest that mindfulness can reduce anxiety and depression, improve memory and focus, help people manage stress, and lead to greater satisfaction in relationships.

Mindfulness DBT skills for teens can help them learn to be more aware of and eventually accept their emotions. The goal isn’t for teens to try to clear their minds or stop thinking but to become aware of their feelings instead of getting lost. They also learn to observe and acknowledge their emotions without self-judgment. For example, if they feel anxious, they might state to themselves, I notice that I am feeling anxious, without judging or trying to change the feeling.


·      Distress Tolerance

Adolescents sometimes feel that their problems are simply out of their control. It’s common for a teen to think, This isn’t fair, or I shouldn’t have this problem, although it often makes them feel worse. DBT activities for teens focused on distress tolerance help them learn to become less reactive and emotional when they experience difficult emotions.

Radical acceptance is a term used to describe a healthier way of thinking in stressful situations. Instead of focusing on how much they want something to be different, teens learn through DBT to recognize and accept the problem or situation as it is. When they learn to accept and tolerate what is out of their control, they feel less anxiety, anger, and sadness when dealing with the situation.


·      Emotion Regulation

When a teen experiences an emotion, a behavior usually comes with it. If they are angry, they might fight or argue. If they are sad, they might withdraw from friends and family. Some of these behaviors are instinctive, while others might be conscious choices.

 DBT teaches teens how choosing a different action in these situations can help regulate their emotions. For example, they can try talking quietly and calmly if they usually yell when angry. If they tend to withdraw when sad, they can call or visit a friend. DBT also encourages them to focus on the positive aspects of an experience rather than the negative.


·      Interpersonal Effectiveness

The last of the four DBT modules is interpersonal effectiveness. Interpersonal effectiveness skills help teens understand how their behavior affects their relationships so they can make positive changes. Learning how to balance our own needs with the needs of others can be challenging at any age. DBT includes three different skills that can help teens achieve this goal: objective effectiveness, relationship effectiveness, and self-respect effectiveness:

  • Objective effectiveness focuses on how to express your own needs or desires clearly.
  • Relationship effectiveness teaches how to foster positive interactions with others.
  • Self-respect effectively supports teens in ensuring they don’t betray their values and beliefs for approval or to get what they want.


Key Takeaways

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was originally developed to address symptoms and behaviors associated with Borderline Personality Disorder. However, today, DBT skills are used for many different mental health conditions and behavioral disorders.

DBT skills for teens cover four distinct areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Adolescent DBT also utilizes prescribed approaches to strengthen relationships by helping teens engage in healthy conflict, respect others’ viewpoints, and express their wants and needs.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

At Clearview Girls Academy, each teen’s individualized treatment plan includes DBT skills and other clinical and experiential modalities.


We Want to Help Your Daughter

Since 1996, young girls have come to Clearview Girls Academy to flourish, think positively about themselves, improve their relationships, and move on to a better future.

Girl students at Clearview live together in our beautiful lodge and meet regularly with their therapists. Their therapists help them confront fears and gain confidence in a safe, nurturing, and structured environment in the foothills and mountains of northwestern Montana.

We enroll girls year-round. Please call us for more information on how we can help your daughter improve her future at Clearview Girls Academy–(888) 416-3029.




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residential therapy for girls
residential therapy for girls

residential therapy for girls
residential therapy for girls
residential therapy for girls
residential therapy for girls

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is effective in treating many disorders. Contact Clearview Girls Academy today to hell your daughter.