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Therapy Approach for Depressed and Anxious Teens


What Is DBT?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a skill based approach that balances acceptance and change, rather than focusing primarily on just one or the other. This balance of acceptance and change provides the support and motivation one needs to learn the skills they need in order to make a lasting change.

What Does “Dialectical” Mean? Dialectical = two opposite ideas can be true at the same time, and when considered together, can create a new truth and a new way of viewing the situation. There is always more than one way to think about a situation.


DBT focuses on four skills modules:

  • Mindfulness: Teaches mindfulness meditation

  • Emotion regulation: Educates clients on emotions and how to manage them

  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Teaches skills to help clients manage healthy relationships

  • Distress tolerance: Teaches skills to help clients deal with emotional crises

Some of the strategies are:

Radical self-acceptance: Teaches to fully accept what is or has happened in life. Radical does not mean being ok with any situation, but it frees one from fighting reality.

Walking the Middle Path: It is a collection of techniques to assist with common teen issues. The emphasized techniques include dialectics, validation, and behavior change.

Dialectics: Recognizing and honoring two different sides of a conflict to find the common truth between them. For example, someone can be doing the best they can and yet need to do better.

Validation: Recognizing that someone else’s experience, and your own experience, are important. Even when there is disagreement, validation honors actions, feelings, and thoughts.

Behavior Change: Behavior change is a collection of techniques that helps motivate, make, and maintain desirable changes in behavior.


DBT Assumptions:

1. People are doing the best they can.

2. People want to improve.

3. People need to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change.

4. People may not have caused all of their own problems and they have to solve them anyway.

5. The lives of emotionally distressed teenagers and their families are painful as they are currently being lived.

6. Teens and families must learn and practice new behaviors in all the different situations in their lives (e.g., home, school, work, neighborhood).

7. There is no absolute truth.

8. Teens and their families cannot fail in DBT.




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