Dialectical Behavior Therapy

teen attending dialectical behavior therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Teens

One could argue that the teenage years are the most stressful and confusing time in a person’s life. However, they can also be the most exciting time in a person’s life. The teenage years are filled with emotional highs, but also intense lows.

For some teens, this type of emotional rollercoaster can lead to significant emotional and behavioral issues that impact their daily lives and relationships. While there are a number of different options out there for teens to address their adolescent struggles, one option in particular is DBT for teens or dialectical behavior therapy.

At Blume Behavioral Health, we offer DBT for teens in order to help teens and adolescents ensure that they receive the support that they need to tackle all the challenges that come with adolescence.

Keep reading to learn more about dialectical behavioral therapy and how it can help your teen better navigate their life.

What is DBT?

Before diving deeper into dialectical behavioral therapy and how it can specifically help teens, it’s important to understand what exactly it is.

DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that is designed to help people in need manage difficult emotions and develop effective coping strategies. While it was originally developed to help treat those with borderline personality disorder, over the years therapists and treatment professionals have found it to be effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions.

Dialectical behavioral therapy combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness.

dbt for teens

What is the History of DBT for Teens?

As we mentioned, DBT was originally developed as a treatment method for adults struggling with borderline personality disorder who experienced suicidal thoughts and actions.

While Dr. Marsha Linehan was credited with discovering DBT in the late 1980s, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that mental health professionals started utilizing the technique for other mental health conditions, including mental health struggles in teenagers and adolescents.

Mental health and treatment professionals quickly realized that with the unique challenges and issues that teens face, they needed to adapt the ways in which they applied DBT so that it could help address those unique struggles.

Over the years, DBT for teens has been empirically validated and has become a widely used treatment for various emotional and behavioral issues in adolescents.

group of teens in DBT

How Does DBT for Teens Work?

Unlike DBT for adults, DBT for teens and adolescents puts a greater emphasis on family involvement when it comes to addressing teenage-specific issues such as peer pressure, identity formation, and academic stress.

Treatment is structured around several key components such as:

  • Individual Therapy – One-on-one sessions with a therapist or mental health professional are conducted in order to address personal issues, set goals, and apply DBT skills to specific situations.
  • Group Skills Training – A teen undergoing DBT will also participate in group sessions focused on learning and applying DBT skills in a supportive environment with others who are going through similar struggles.
  • Family Involvement – Family therapy sessions are also held with the goal of improving communication, resolving conflicts, and teaching family members how to support their child, sibling, etc in their application of the DBT skills they have learned.

This comprehensive approach ensures that teens receive the support they need in multiple areas, promoting long-term emotional and behavioral changes.

What Does DBT for Teens Help With?

DBT for teens can help address a wide range of both emotional and behavioral issues that are unique to teens and adolescents.

Examples of issues that DBT can help with include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Anger issues
  • Depression
  • Self-harm
  • Anxiety

What are the Four DBT Skills for Teens?

DBT skills are divided into four main modules. These 4 modules are:


Mindfulness teaches teens to focus on the present and become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. By doing so, teens can reduce stress and gain better control over their emotions.

Distress tolerance helps teens both tolerate and survive a crisis without making the situation worse. This is done by accepting whatever is causing them distress which, in turn, can eliminate feelings of anxiety, anger, and sadness.

Emotional regulation equips teens with the strategies needed to understand and manage their emotions in a healthier and more effective manner. It teaches them how to identify and label emotions which can help reduce vulnerability when experiencing negative emotions while also increasing positive emotional experiences.

Interpersonal effectiveness teaches teens how to communicate more effectively and maintain healthier relationships. This is done by focusing on things like assertiveness, setting boundaries, and maintaining self-respect in interactions with others.

What are DBT Skills for Teens and Families?

What makes dialectical behavioral therapy for teens different is the role the family of the teen plays in the process. In fact, DBT for teens often includes family skills training to ensure that parents and siblings can support their teen’s progress.

Examples of skills that are taught to both the teen and their family during DBT include:

  • Problem-solving – Developing strategies for addressing family issues collaboratively and effectively.
  • Communication – Improving how family members talk and listen to each other, reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.
  • Validation – Teaching family members how to validate the teen’s feelings and experiences fosters a supportive and understanding environment.
  • Behavioral principles – Understanding how reinforcement and consequences influence behavior, and learning how to apply these principles in positive ways.
a teen in dbt

DBT fo Teens FAQs?

Q: How long does DBT for teens typically last?

A: DBT programs for teens usually last around six months to a year, depending on the individual’s needs and progress. Some teens may benefit from ongoing support beyond the initial treatment period.

A: No, DBT can be beneficial for any teen struggling with emotional or behavioral issues, not just those with severe problems. It is an effective treatment for a wide range of difficulties.

A: Yes, parent involvement is a crucial component of DBT for teens. Family skills training and therapy sessions are designed to help parents support their teen’s progress and improve family dynamics.

Blume Behavioral Health Can Assist with DBT for Teens

While there are many different types of treatment options out there for teens and adolescents who may be struggling mentally, one of the more effective ones is DBT for teens.

At Blume Behavioral Health in Redondo Beach, California, we understand the importance of mental stability during a child’s teen and adolescent years. That’s why we offer a variety of treatment options for teens who may be struggling, including DBT.

For more information about our mental and behavioral health services, contact us today.