By Rachel Chase, M.S. and Abigail Lyng, M.S.W.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT as it is more commonly known, is an evidence-based practice that supports teens, as well as parents, develop the skills to cope more effectively with heightened emotion dysregulation as well as self-destructive behaviors.
But let us step back a moment to address the elephant in the room, the word ‘dialectical’, what does it mean? As Dr. Marsha Linehan, the original developer of this therapeutic intervention, would likely explain, dialectical incorporates a philosophical approach of ‘dialectics’. Simply put, it is about opposites and supporting a dialogue between the opposing forces. For a teen who participates in DBT, they are being supported by the therapist leading the skills group in reconciling a potential contradiction between self-acceptance and the desire for change.
The DBT skills group supports this dialogue and engages the ‘opposites’ by guiding teens, and parents, in a structured manner to learn behavioral skills that includes homework assignments and role-plays to support their practice of the skills in the home environment. These behavioral skills follow a structured format to cover 5 different, but important areas, including:
Mindfulness— This is a particularly important skill, in which we teach teens the importance of remaining in the present moment. We will teach teens how to pay attention to what is going on within their mind and body.
Distress Tolerance— We teach teens how to appropriately handle or survive crises using a toolkit of various skills: distraction, self-soothing, or pros and cons. We teach that these skills can be used to plan ahead, when you know there is a challenge to anticipate, or used in the throes of a crisis.
Interpersonal Effectiveness— Teens are exposed to a variety of social scenarios in their daily lives. This skill encourages them to become more assertive in a relationship while continuing to maintain a healthy and positive connection. It includes coaching on how to say expressing needs and saying ‘no’, as well as respecting others as well as yourself.
Emotion Regulation— teaching teens how to effectively handle powerful emotions. We will support teens in learning to identify and change negative emotions. This ultimately empowers teens by encouraging confidence in their abilities and allows for more positive emotional experiences.
Walking the Middle Path— This is the section that we will encourage parent participation. This skill encourages healthy and open communication between teen and parent.
You may now be wondering, how would my teen benefit from a skills training group versus individual therapy? While participating in individual therapy is beneficial and crucial to teens coping with difficult issues, participating in a skills training group not only provides teens with the perspective of other groups members, but also provides teens with a space to learn and implement skills that can significantly improve their well-being. Learning these skills in a group setting provides teens with opportunities to see how skills work and situations in which skills may work effectively, as well as provide support, encouragement, and feedback to one another.
At CFSC, we are very fortunate to have successfully navigated the transition from meeting with clients in-person to virtually via telehealth. Given the success we have seen with clients of all ages via teletherapy, we will be holding the group virtually as well. As in a physical environment, our virtual group will adhere to the high standards held for confidentiality as well as maintaining respect for all participating group members.
Ultimately, this skills group is an excellent opportunity for teens who have had trouble navigating challenging situations or coping with intense emotions in an unsafe or destructive way, to learn that they are not alone and that there is a safe outlet to practice and learn skills for long-lasting positive change. If you are interested in learning more about our group or registering , please call 248-851-5437 or email Rachel Chase or Abigail Lyng.
We look forward to working together. Our next group is beginning on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 and space is limited!