January 28, 2023

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy

What is DBT?

The teenage years are characterized by big emotions. But for some teenagers, emotions can be so strong and come on so quickly that they feel overwhelming. These emotional challenges may happen together with suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and/ or self-harm behaviors (that are not suicidal).

It can be terrifying for parents when their teen is showing signs of self-harm or suicidality. But you and your family don’t need to go through this alone – and there is support available to you.

Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is an effective type of therapy that was specifically developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to help people manage intense emotions. DBT was originally used to help adults with borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it’s now applied for children and teens as well.

DBT Can Be Helpful For Treating

Research now shows that DBT can also be helpful for:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Addiction

Most importantly, DBT has been found to be the most effective treatment method to reduce suicide attempts and self-harm behaviors in teens.

At Cadence Therapy, we use DBT to help teens recover from harmful behaviors like:

  • suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts
  • non-suicidal self-injury (like cutting)
  • disordered eating behaviors
  • dysregulated or intense emotions

By participating in our DBT program, your teen can learn new ways to cope with intense and painful emotions and build healthy interpersonal relationships.

What are the treatment goals for DBT?

According to clinical research, the benefits of DBT for teens include:

  • Reduced suicide attempts
  • Reduced non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors like cutting or burning
  • Improved overall quality-of-life
  • Increased motivation to create a fulfilling and sustainable life
  • Improved emotion regulation (ability to manage strong emotions in healthy ways)
  • Reduced psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Healthier interpersonal relationships
  • Increased resilience through crises
  • More effective communication styles

The DBT program at Cadence is effective for teens who experience multiple mental health challenges. Difficulties with managing emotions can be linked to many other factors, including trauma, mood disorders, personality disorders, anxiety, eating disorders, and more. At Cadence, we have the clinical expertise to help your teen address and recover from a variety of different health concerns that might intersect.

DBT practitioners generally address 3 broad treatment targets:

  1. The first priority is reducing self-harm and suicidal behaviors.
  2. The second priority is to address factors that interfere with treatment – in other words, reducing therapy dropout rates.
  3. The third priority is to improve quality-of-life and functioning, like hospitalizations and self-care tasks (like showering). 

Studies have found that DBT is effective for all 3 of these treatment areas. Research has also found that treatment adherence – or the therapist’s ability to deliver DBT how it was intended – makes an enormous difference in how effective DBT is. That’s why it matters which DBT program you choose.

DBT is an intensive program. Both therapists and teen clients need to be committed to seeing it through for it to be effective. That’s why where you access DBT treatment makes such a big difference – only skilled DBT practitioners can address factors that might lead to treatment dropout.

At Cadence Therapy, all members of our DBT team are trained in the application of DBT for treating adolescents. Many of them are certified as DBT clinicians by the DBT-Linehan Board of Certification.

suicide idealization

Start DBT Today

Cadence Child & Adolescent Therapy provides a safe and supportive environment for you, your child, and your family. Our DBT clinical team has many years of experience using DBT to help patients of all ages recover from emotion dysregulation, suicidality, and self-harm.  

If you have additional questions or would like to schedule a consultation, you may call our Bellevue office at (425) 658-3200 or fill out our online form.

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