Menu Close

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy and How Does It Benefit Teens?

female therapist explaining to mother and teenage daughter what is dialectical behavior therapy and how does it benefit teens

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is one of the leading therapies for addressing mental health concerns. DBT is a type of talk therapy that is specially designed for patients who experience intense emotions. Dialectical behavior therapy is beneficial for patients of all ages, including teens.

Imagine Boise is a teen outpatient mental health treatment center. We offer several different teen therapies, including DBT for teens. For more information on whether DBT is right for your teenager, call 888.597.2807 and ask about the teen mental health programs at Imagine Boise.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

It’s common for parents to ask, “What is dialectical behavior therapy, and how is it different from other therapies?”

Two of the most popular forms of talk therapy used in mental health treatment programs are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). To a participant, these might seem similar, but their underlying treatment goals can be very different.

CBT is designed to facilitate understanding of how thoughts impact a person’s feelings and behaviors. DBT aims to help a participant reduce conflicting inner feelings. Dialectical behavior therapy is often used for teens struggling with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Disordered eating
  • Self-harm
  • Substance use
  • Personality disorders
  • Trauma or PTSD

Many teens come to therapy for help with overwhelming emotions. Dialectical behavior therapy is a powerful way of helping a teen stabilize emotions, distinguish reality from perceptions, and establish a plan for creating change in desired areas.

What Happens in a DBT Session?

Dialectical behavior therapy for teens is often split between individual and group therapy settings. These two different formats provide different opportunities for learning and growth.
One-on-one sessions offer the individualized attention of a therapist with a focus on the unique challenges a teen patient is facing. Group sessions offer peer support and the opportunity to work on interpersonal and communication skills.

Dialectical behavior therapy for teens typically addresses four areas, called “modules”:

  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotional regulation

These four modules teach the skills needed to experience and manage emotions in a healthy and productive way.

These modules aim to help a teen achieve the space needed to navigate emotions. In DBT, mindfulness practices are used to help a teen pause and notice the various thoughts and emotions they are experiencing. As this skill is built, a patient gains the ability to have an intentional response to feelings and behaviors.

As a teen regularly attends DBT sessions, they practice applying the skills they’ve learned to more effectively manage challenging situations and keep themselves calm when triggering feelings arise.

How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Helps Teens

Dialectical behavioral therapy for teens is a powerful tool for helping a teen regain a sense of control over their feelings. DBT teaches teens how to identify overwhelming thoughts and emotions and process them in a manner that helps them regulate feelings and reduce distress.

Teens who participate in DBT experience benefits like:

  • Understanding the source of concerning thoughts or feelings
  • Anticipating and coping with triggers
  • Learning tools to process and relieve unwanted emotions
  • Experiencing relief from depression, anxiety, and other concerns

By increasing mindfulness and decreasing over-identification with confusing or conflicting feelings, teens are given the skills to sort out overwhelming emotions so that their emotions don’t feel unmanageable, confusing, or out of control.

DBT for Teens at Imagine Boise

Imagine Boise offers teen mental health treatment services to patients ages 12-17. Our outpatient treatment center implements a variety of therapies to address different mental health concerns, providing an interdisciplinary treatment program designed to help teens make a lasting recovery.

At Imagine Boise, we encourage teens to see mental health as cool. When mental health concerns are addressed, our teen patients experience how confidence, competence, and happiness improve.
For more information on how our treatment programs can help your teen, call Imagine Boise at 888.597.2807 today.