How Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Can Benefit Teens

Mental illness affects millions of people, and teens are no exception. In fact, suicidal ideation and self-harm behaviors are alarmingly high among teens. Thankfully, several therapies can help manage mental health symptoms and improve quality of life. One of these therapies is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which has shown effectiveness in treating a range of mental health disorders. In this blog post, we will describe DBT and how it works, the benefits it offers teens, and why it works.

DBT incorporates cognitive-behavioral techniques that help patients identify negative thinking, benefit from positive reinforcement, and develop skills that improve emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships. DBT has been shown to be effective in treating mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

DBT focuses on four key skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Mindfulness helps patients learn to observe their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without judgment, and cultivate a greater sense of awareness of their internal experiences. Distress tolerance is geared toward teaching people how to tolerate intense emotions and urges, using various coping strategies such as self-soothing and distraction techniques. Emotional regulation helps patients identify and manage their emotions in healthy ways, reducing the risk of impulsive behavior. Interpersonal effectiveness is designed to enhance communication and relationships by teaching assertiveness, active listening, and other social skills.

DBT is beneficial for teens in many ways. It can improve their self-esteem, increase coping mechanisms, reduce suicidal thoughts and self-harm behaviors, and improve relationships with peers, family, and caregivers. By incorporating mindfulness, DBT also addresses the complex and holistic needs of adolescents who are developing their sense of identity and self-awareness.

So, why does DBT work? DBT’s effectiveness comes from the symbiotic relationship of the therapist-patient partnership, where both the therapist and patient have specific roles and collaborate with each other. The therapist acts as a coach, providing validation, feedback, and guidance, while the patient collaborates actively in their treatment by practicing the skills learned, attending therapy sessions, and following up on homework assignments. The structure of DBT helps patients feel in control of their life and empowers them to take responsibility for their own treatment.


DBT offers teens a unique and effective therapeutic approach to managing various mental health struggles. Mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness are skills that are useful to everyone, regardless of mental health status. In fact, these skills can help anyone approach challenges and stressors more effectively. DBT has been shown to be effective in reducing suicidal ideation and self-harm behaviors among teens. Through this therapy, they can learn to live a balanced life, manage intense emotions, and improve their relationships. If you think your teen could benefit from DBT, we encourage you to reach out to us and learn more about our Psychiatric Day Treatment program!

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