What is DBT?
At Integrated Care Clinic, we host a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)-informed skills groups for high school teens. It is a 90-minute group with teens and parents held on Monday evenings from 6:00 – 7:30 pm.
What do you learn?
DBT is a type of therapy that helps people learn to control their emotions. We are all built a little differently. Sometimes that means we might be more vulnerable to emotions, respond more intensely, and have a harder time getting back to our “baseline”. DBT offers concrete skills and strategies to use in the moment to help you be aware of what is going on and successfully regulate and get back in control of your emotions. It does this through 5 modules. These 5 modules focus on mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, walking the middle path, and interpersonal effectiveness skills.
You might have a lot of pushback about going to a group. Here is the list of the most common questions I get when I talk about the group.
Why should I do this if I already do individual therapy?
Sometimes individual therapy may not be enough, especially when your emotions get to a really intense level. This group offers actual skills and strategies to try to get closer to feeling better and back in control. DBT is an evidence-based therapy, which means that these skills have been proven to work for teens!
I don’t think I feel comfortable sharing all my personal info with a random group
That’s a fair concern. The thing about the group is that we often don’t have too much time to get deep into individual symptoms. We do go through a lot of content. While I might ask you to share what your experience was like trying the homework, that doesn’t mean you have to share your deepest worries! Participation is not mandatory, although it is encouraged. The other great thing about the group is that you get to talk to other teens going through similar stressors. It’s a chance to feel like someone else really gets it, in a way that friends and parents sometimes can’t!
Why is my parent there?!
This rule takes a lot of teens by surprise. But as you would find in the group, your parent is not there to talk about you, what you did, what you didn’t do, etc. The goal is to have your parent there to actually learn the skills and apply them in their own lives, not just in relation to you. The parent is held just as accountable as the teen and has the same homework and tasks to complete! I have often had teens complain that their parent throw therapy words in their face without really knowing what they mean and it ends up making things feel worse. This group helps your parent actually learn the skills. This makes it way more likely that they will be able to help and respond effectively in a moment of crisis.
But my emotions just get too strong, nothing will help!
This is where that term “evidence-based treatment” comes into play. DBT was created specifically to help with the most intense emotions. The strategies we talk about in group even get into crisis survival skills that have been shown to reduce intense emotions quickly! It there is anything out there that can help with intense emotions, DBT can be the key to success!
This group requires a parent or close adult to be present and participate in the group. Yes, you read that right! You, the parent, are in the group! This is for a couple reasons.
Reduce the interaction effect
Some of you may be thinking, “Why do I have to attend? It’s my teen that explodes, not me!” It may be very likely that your teen becomes easily dysregulated. Perhaps even more so than your typical teenage “mood swing”. If this occurs often in your household, it might be safe to assume that it impacts the whole household! You may find that you feel as though you are walking on eggshells. You might feel a sense of loss or hopelessness. Or, you may even find yourself more primed for an argument. The DBT Skills group is created to help you learn skills to respond more effectively to your teen when they are emotionally dysregulated, as well as skills to help you manage your own reactions to your teen, thus reducing the chances of perpetuating a negative interaction effect!
While individual therapy can be very helpful for teenagers, parents can often feel left-out or very disconnected from the process. The group puts you right in the thick of things. Learning the same skills and strategies and completing the same homework as your teen!
Be “In The Know
Sometimes parents get snippets of therapy terms and goals. They then try to use them to help their teen, with varying degrees of success. I have worked with lots of teens that feel like their parents have a vague understanding of a therapy strategy or skill. But the parents don’t really know enough about it to be helpful at the moment when the teen needs it. Some teens shared that they feel as if therapy terms are thrown in their faces. Being in the group, you have the opportunity to fully understand the function and purpose behind each skill. In addition, you have an incredible opportunity to model appropriate and effective behavior. Ever heard of the phrase “actions speak louder than words?” The group helps you talk the talk AND walk the walk.
DBT Skills are Universally Effective
No one is calm and in control all the time. Our emotions tend to get the better of us, in some shape or form. The great thing about DBT skills is that they can be universally applied: with your teen, with your partner, or with a colleague at work! They are concrete strategies that can help you be more effective in your communication, increase the chances of getting what you want, all while working towards staying in control of your mind so that you can build a life worth living (a classic DBT goal!).
Ready to Get Started?
If you are interested in our Teen DBT-Informed Skills group and would like to learn more about what DBT is and how group can help, please feel free to check out our previous blogs which provide a more in-depth explanation of DBT, or give us a call today to see if group would be a good fit for you and your teen!