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Therapy Session

Adolescent Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT-A)

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Adolescents (DBT-A) is a specialized form of DBT tailored to meet the unique needs of teenagers. DBT-A is particularly effective for individuals struggling with emotional dysregulation, self-harm behaviors, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships. By providing practical tools and strategies, DBT-A empowers adolescents to navigate the challenges of adolescence and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

What is DBT-A and How Can It Help?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), originally developed for adults, has been adapted to meet the unique needs of teenagers. This adaptation, known as DBT-A, is specifically designed to address the emotional and behavioral challenges faced by adolescents. DBT has been adapted for teens by emphasizing the following:


Developmentally Appropriate Language and Approach

DBT for Teens uses language and a therapeutic approach that are suitable for adolescents. Therapists engage with teens in a way that respects their age and stage of development, making the therapy more relatable and effective.


Emphasis on Emotional Regulation

Teenagers often struggle with intense emotions, and DBT-A places a significant focus on emotional regulation. It equips adolescents with skills to identify, understand, and manage their emotions more effectively, reducing impulsive behavior and emotional distress.


Distress Tolerance Skills

Adolescents are taught distress tolerance skills to help them navigate challenging situations without resorting to harmful behaviors or impulsive decisions. These skills provide teens with healthier coping mechanisms for handling stress and crisis.


Peer Relationships and Social Skills

Teenagers often grapple with peer relationships and social challenges. DBT-A addresses these issues by teaching adolescents effective interpersonal skills, including assertiveness, conflict resolution, and boundary-setting.


Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness techniques are integrated into DBT-A to help adolescents stay present in the moment and become more aware of their thoughts, emotions and impulses. Mindfulness enhances self-awareness and emotion regulation, and can also be particularly helpful for teens who struggle with attention issues.


Adolescent-Specific Issues

DBT-A acknowledges and addresses issues specific to adolescence, such as identity development, academic stress, peer pressure, and self-esteem concerns. Therapists tailor the treatment to address these age-specific challenges.


Collaboration with Schools

DBT-A often involves collaboration with school counselors and educators. This ensures that the skills learned in therapy can be applied effectively in an academic setting, leading to improved functioning in school.


Promotes Long-Term Well-Being

DBT-A aims not only to address immediate concerns but also to equip adolescents with the skills they need to navigate life successfully in the long term. It fosters emotional resilience and personal growth.

What's Involved In DBT-A? 

Just like all of the treatments offered at CWML, an individualized treatment plan is developed for every teenager. Therapists work closely with the teen and their parents to identify their unique needs and develop a plan that addresses their specific concerns. The following components are typically included in a DBT-A treatment plan:


Weekly Individual Therapy

Teens are seen once or twice a week by a DBT therapist for individual therapy focused on helping the adolescent process their feelings and experiences, and receive support and guidance on how to incorporate DBT skills into their daily life. 


DBT Skills Training

DBT-A skills can either be taught individually by the teen’s therapist or in an age specific DBT Skills Group. Skills taught include: Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness.


Family Involvement

DBT-A recognizes the importance of family support in a teenager's life. It often includes family therapy sessions to improve communication, address family dynamics, and foster a more supportive environment for the teen's emotional growth. In addition, it is recommended that parents learn the same DBT skills that their teenager is learning. This is sometimes done in the form of family skills training sessions, or by having parents attend a parent specific DBT Skills Group. Parents who feel they need more individual support are also given the option to see their own individual DBT therapist or meet regularly with a Therapeutic Coach. 


Skills Reinforcement at Home

Therapists will often provide home practice assignments designed to help reinforce the skills learned in therapy.  This reinforcement helps teens to apply skills learned in therapy to real-life situations. Parents are also encouraged to practice and model the DBT skills with their teen at home. 


Between DBT Session Coaching

DBT-A therapists are available to teens between sessions to assist with problem-solving, and to address specific challenges that may arise at home or in school. In some cases the additional support of in-home therapeutic family coaching can be helpful. Our masters level therapeutic coaches can model and reinforce the skills learned in DBT-A to help families create a calmer and more collaborative home environment.  

At CWML, all of our licensed therapists are intensively trained in DBT and we’re committed to providing a safe and supportive environment where you can learn and practice these life-changing skills.  We understand that every individual's journey is unique, and we tailor our DBT therapy to your specific needs and goals. Our goal is to empower you to lead a life that is balanced, fulfilling, and meaningful, an approach to life we call Wise Mind Living.

Want to learn more about DBT-A? 

Reach out for a free 30 minute consultation

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