How Can Dialectical Behavior Therapy Help Your Teen?

What is DBT?

DBT is a type of cognitive behavior therapy that takes a strengths-based approach to help individuals identify and challenge core beliefs that make life harder. By focusing on both the ability to accept current situations while still striving to make things better, it teaches tools to react in healthy and appropriate ways to difficult situations. DBT is especially helpful for people who experience extreme mood swings, engage in black-and-white thinking, seem to constantly be in one crisis or another, and often have intense and sometimes unhealthy relationships. DBT is an evidence-based intervention that has been shown to reduce suicidal ideation, non-suicidal self-injury, disordered eating, substance use, anger, depression and increase social functioning.

How does DBT help teens?

Since DBT was designed for people who experience emotional volatility, rigid thinking, impulsivity and difficulty balancing relationships, it’s perfect for teenagers who often experience most of these things at baseline, and particularly helpful for teens who experience anxiety, depression or self-harming behaviors as a result.

DBT teaches teens:

  • Mindfulness: To be in the moment, be less judgmental and find balance between emotions and rationality.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: To ask for what they want, say no to unwanted requests and do so in a way that maintains self-respect but doesn’t destroy relationships. DBT also teaches teens to build relationships, end destructive ones and how to find and make friends.
  • Emotion Regulation: To understand and name emotions, reduce the intensity of painful emotions and increase emotional resilience.
  • Distress Tolerance: To tolerate painful events, urges and emotions when things can’t be made better right away and how to accept and enter fully into life even if circumstances are not what they want.


The reality is that emotions and relationships legitimately do feel more intense in adolescence and teens are doing the best they can to cope with new and often overwhelming experiences. DBT gives teens the tools and strategies to cope effectively with intense emotions and events and develop emotional resiliency that they can take into adulthood. If you think your teen could benefit from DBT skills give us a call to learn more about individual and group counseling.

Jamie Doak

Jamie Doak

I'm a former English teacher, school mental health counselor, recovering perfectionist and therapist at Colorado Teen Therapy. I love working with middle and high school girls who struggle with stress, anxiety, body image and perfectionism to help them shed the pressures of who they think they are supposed to be and embrace the strong, confident young woman they already are! When I'm not working with teens, I enjoy camping, reading, hanging out with my dog, Hudson, and watching movies and/or shows that feature Benedict Cumberbatch.

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