• Katy Ainslie-Wallace, LPC-IT, SAC-IT

Why your teen needs DBT & 5 strategies they can starting using NOW!


Have you heard about DBT? If you have teens, you probably have.

Recently DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, has exploded as a highly effective therapy, particularly for those struggling with self harming behaviors, suicidal ideations, and intense anxiety/depression. Although DBT has been around for years, it is just now gaining steam as providers, parents, and clinicians are beginning to see the impact DBT has in helping clients to decrease maladaptive (i.e. "harmful") behaviors and increase healthy behaviors. Schools are even beginning to use DBT strategies in the classroom and in small groups to teach social emotional skills to students.

DBT focuses on four main skills:

  1. Mindfulness is the be ability to stay in the moment rather than getting dragged back into the past or worry about what could happen in the future.

  2. Emotion Regulation is being able to notice and observe, non-judgmentally, the emotions we encounter, and figuring out what role they are playing in our bodies and lives.

  3. Interpersonal Effectiveness is being able to effectively ask for what you need fr yourself and others, and maintaining your cool if things don’t go the way you want or plan.

  4. Distress Tolerance in being able to tolerate strong emotions that would otherwise send you into a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions

Clients identify specific behaviors that they are hoping to either decrease or increase and then learn and practice each skill in depth. For a quick-ish video that describes DBT, click here.

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

You probably want your teen to learn DBT skills, right?

I don’t blame you.

Having the skills to withstand difficult emotions and stressful situations is something we would all benefit from.

Our teens are so inundated with social media, pressures to succeed, and a belief that they must have life figured out already, that it’s no wonder that depression and anxiety rates are up for adolescents. Did you know that between 2001-2004, 49.5% of adolescents (ages 13-18) had a diagnoses mental health disorder? Just think what that number might be today! IF you want to know more you can visit NIMH's webpage for some eye opening statistics.

To really learn DBT skills and to implement them correctly, teens should work with a licensed mental health professional or a trained DBT professional. However there are definitely a few things that your teen can start doing TODAY!

So, here are our top 5 DBT’isms that your teen start doing today!

  1. “Ride the wave” Rather than letting your emotions throw you around by fighting the waves, stay still and ride it out. Nothing lasts forever, and this emotion will also pass. You can wear yourself out, or gently float with it.

  2. “That’s not happening right now” Part of mindfulness is not getting sucked into the past or worrying about the future. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to be present; in the moment.

  3. Thoughts aren’t truths. Just because we think something, does not make it a truth. With that goes black and white thinking. We cannot think in terms of ‘always’ or ‘never’, but rather on a continuum where we are constantly moving, and someone else is always to our left or right. Except for the poor person who is at the end, but I guarantee we will never meet them. So when your teen says everyone hates them, we can challenge that by having them define “everyone”. When we challenge those thoughts, we frequently are able to realize that we aren’t being reasonable.

  4. Find your WISE mind! We all have an emotional mind where everything flies off the rails at times! We also have a reasonable mind where we think logically and carefully calculate options. While there are times that they are each helpful, most times we would benefit from finding our WISE mind which is a perfect balance of the two. We notice and acknowledge our emotion AND we act in the most effective and beneficial way.

  5. Change BUT to AND -- There can be more than one truth in every situation, whether we like all the truths or not. DBT gives you the skills to find those other truths and expand your perspective while feeling validated in your own truth, and accepting of others.

Interested in signing your teen up for one of our DBT groups? Or working with Katy individually?

call: 608.709.9672

visit: www.abegglencounseling.com

email: info@abegglencounseling.com

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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]


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