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4 Traits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

female therapist discussing 5 traits of dialectical behavior therapy with female client

If your teen is currently struggling with a mental health condition, therapy may be the best course of action. Choosing a mental health treatment program can help teens experiencing mood swings or having thoughts of self-harm. These signs of a serious mental health condition are difficult to deal with without the assistance of a licensed mental health professional. The various treatments a professional can help administer can give your child the tools they need to cope with a mental health disorder. One of the most effective treatments for intense distress and suicidal thoughts is dialectical behavior therapy or DBT.

We at Imagine Boise know how difficult it can be to help a teenager or adolescent who seems out of control. That’s why our compassionate and understanding staff members are here to provide both you and your child with the support you need to begin healing. If your teen is struggling to control their emotions and reactions to stressful life events, then dialectical behavior therapy may be the right choice. You can call us at 888.597.2807 to learn more about how DBT can help your child.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy was originally used to treat borderline personality disorder or BPD. It is a modified form of cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT and focuses on the patient’s thoughts and emotions to learn how they influence behavior. The difference between DBT and CBT is that the former emphasizes a patient’s control over their emotions. As such, it is effective at managing wild mood swings and negative emotions.

Today, DBT is used for a wide variety of mental health conditions, including:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Substance use disorders

4 Traits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy teaches patients four key skills or modules. The goal of these skills is to allow the patient to handle emotional distress with positive coping mechanisms.

1. Mindfulness

This is the core upon which all other DBT skills are based. Mindfulness helps the patient to focus on the present and be aware of what’s happening in that moment. The patient learns to pay attention to their own thoughts and feelings and then accept their existence. Patients will be able to do this without judgment or without labeling thoughts and feelings as inherently good or bad.

2. Distress tolerance

Mindfulness is a good start but isn’t always enough for a teen faced with a distressing situation. Distress tolerance helps the patient change their perspective during moments of crisis. Instead of agonizing about the situation and what could happen, this skill teaches patients to:

  • Distract themselves
  • Self-soothe through relaxation techniques
  • Find ways to improve the situation
  • Compare the pros and cons of their coping mechanisms

3. Emotion regulation

Teens experience emotions very strongly and may react to these emotions instinctively. They often lack the tools to manage these emotions effectively. DBT tries to make them realize that they can choose whether or not to react to their emotions. Doing so allows a patient to stop problematic behaviors at the source.

4. Interpersonal effectiveness

The stress involved in dealing with mood swings and negative emotions can make it hard to communicate with and relate to others. DBT teaches teens that their emotions and resulting behaviors have an effect on others. It tries to develop the skill of positive communication so that teens can express themselves, listen actively, and be more assertive in social situations. The increased confidence that comes with this skill can help prevent the negative emotions that cause a crisis.

Choose DBT at Imagine Boise

A DBT program may be the key to helping your teen by allowing them to address unhealthy coping mechanisms and emotional responses. Our therapists at Imagine Boise are trained to work with teens aged 12 to 17 and are experts in delivering skilled, compassionate, and effective care. They can help your child learn to change negative habits into positive coping mechanisms, giving them the tools they need to have better experiences and relationships in the future. If you think your teen may benefit from DBT, call us at 888.597.2807 so we can help you today.