Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills

At the Adolescent Day Hospital, we teach patients dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills. DBT is used to treat individuals, including adolescents, with complex, difficult-to-treat mental health problems. Some of these problems include: suicidal thoughts and/or self-harm, substance abuse, aggression and oppositionality, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, and symptoms of trauma, to name a few.

In DBT, individuals are taught skills that enable them to experience their emotions without necessarily acting on them. They are also taught to replace problematic behaviors, such as self-injury or binging and purging, with skillful ones. DBT provides therapeutic skills in four key areas:

  • Mindfulness: The practice of being aware and present in the moment

  • Distress Tolerance: How to tolerate pain in difficult situations without the situation getting worse

  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: How to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others

  • Emotion Regulation: How to manage and express your emotions effectively

These skills help people focus on decreasing suffering, improving relationships, and creating a life worth living. Specific treatment goals are set by each individual; they work with their treatment team to determine how to utilize the skills they learn in DBT to accomplish these goals. DBT also has a strong focus on mindfulness and acceptance strategies.

Components of the program include four DBT skills groups taught daily, additional groups that help patients think about how to use DBT in their daily lives, and homework activities that encourage patients to generalize the skills they are learning. 

Why DBT at the Adolescent Day Hospital? 

  • Most of the adolescents at the Adolescent Day Hospital have the symptoms for which DBT is effective. Importantly, research shows that DBT works for adolescents! 

  • This new program focuses on teaching skills to patients so that they leave the day hospital with concrete actions they can take and skills to continue working on to work towards feeling better and living the lives they (and families) want.