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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy treatment that was originally developed by Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan, in the late 1980s, to help better treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is founded on the principals of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but places greater emphasis on the psychosocial aspects of treatment. DBT remains the gold-standard form of treatment for individuals with BPD and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), has since been recognized as an effective method of treatment for a wide range of other mental health disorders as well as issues related to emotional dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation is a term used within the mental health field to denote irrational, poorly modulated emotional responses. DBT focuses on teaching four behavioral skill modules: core mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation. DBT is comprised of different components including weekly DBT skills training group therapy sessions, weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. 

DBT For Children

The standard DBT is rarely used to treat young people, rather the adapted version known as DBT for children (DBT-C) is typically integrated into treatment plans, as it is a unique and effective approach for children and preadolescents. According to Behavioral Tech, DBT for children was developed to “address treatment needs of pre-adolescent children with severe emotional dysregulation and corresponding behavioral discontrol.” DBT-C relies on the same principals, theoretical model, and therapeutic strategies of standard DBT. However, the DBT-C curriculum is re-framed in a way that considers and accommodates the developmental and cognitive levels of pre-adolescent children and provides age-appropriate services. Through DBT-C a child will learn a variety of adaptive coping skills and effective problem-solving strategies.

Core Mindfulness: The Wise Mind 

A central concept of the core mindfulness DBT module involves understanding three mind states (the emotional mind, the reasonable mind, and the wise mind) and how they interrelate. The emotional mind is ruled by emotions; it is often impulsive and acted upon due to intense feelings and a sense of urgency. The emotional mind does not consider logic or reason (e.g., falling in love). The reasonable mind is explained as our “traditional thinking state of mind…it’s our practical and pragmatic, logical and rational, task-and rule-oriented way of thinking grounded in facts and reason.” The reasonable mind does not consider emotion. There are certain times when operating from a reasonable mind may be advantageous (e.g., completing math homework, baking a recipe from scratch, etc.). The wise mind lies between the emotional mind and the reasonable mind; it is the synthesis of considering both emotions and rationality. To harness the wise mind, it is imperative to understand the intricacies of both the emotional mind and the reasonable mind. 

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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