Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT Helps Teens Develop New Skills to Reach Their Potential

Are you concerned that your teen does not have a good sense of self? Do you have to tippy-toe around your teen’s ever-changing moods? Have you heard your teen referred to as a “drama queen?” Does your teen appear irrational and illogical, causing you to wonder what is going on? If this is the case, your teen may benefit from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is one of a series of therapeutic tools used by Ironwood Maine’s mental health treatment professionals to help teens learn and develop new skills to reach their highest potential.

teen in dbt therapy

DBT can be helpful in reducing teens involvement in drama. As many parents know, often the word “drama” becomes associated with teens because their reactions to events seem to be much more intense than what is considered by most to be a “normal” or appropriate reaction. Teens also tend to have unstable relationships with peers and family, liking “Joe” right now but a few hours later hating “Joe”. Their relationships also seem to come and go with their interests, which may roll in and out like the tide.

More and more teens are also engaging in impulsive and risky behaviors such as increased sexual activity, substance use, and self-harm as a means of coping or fitting in. Many teens look outside of themselves for validation, making them more vulnerable to peer pressure. Since many teens lack the necessary tools to self-validate, creating self-confusion, they continue to search to define who they are, often taking them down scary paths. DBT skill development teaches teens how to self-validate, through self-reflection and behavioral analysis.

What Exactly is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy was created by Marsha Linehan for the treatment of individuals who are emotionally reactive, engage in self-harming behaviors, and create major problems in their lives as well as the lives of those surrounding them. DBT has a foundation in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with an emphasis on validation and the eastern belief of mindfulness. The dialectics addressed in the DBT model incorporate balancing opposing strategies with change and acceptance, in other words… I am doing the best I can in the moment AND I need to change. Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training can be beneficial in teaching your teen the necessary tools to help with impulsivity, reactivity to emotions, improving rationale, managing anxious feelings, self-awareness, communication, maintaining and repairing relationships, and problem-solving family dilemmas. Through DBT skills development, you will observe your teen develop a better sense of self, appear well-adjusted, and able to adapt to various situations and settings, and reduce or stop engaging in risky behaviors.

DBT Can Help

DBT Skills Training is helpful in addressing mood instability, especially with adolescents whose moods tend to change frequently. It can even benefit teen whose moods change frequently from feeling depressed to ecstatic or normal to irritable, and so forth. As parents, we can recall the moments when our child yelled “I hate you” or “you can’t understand how I’m feeling” but still tightly held on because they wanted love and support. There are often stimuli that are predecessors to fluctuation in the changing of your teen’s mood. Mood instability in teens can often be attributed to reactivity or lack of regulation of their emotions with regard to that stimuli. Skills training will help the teen identify the stimuli, be able to describe and understand how they are impacted, and then be able to cope using either distress tolerance or emotional regulation skills. Therefore teens can learn to stop and think, using their “wise mind,” and to a parent it means having a teen that will be easier to live with.