Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Does your child or teen experience big feelings?  Some of us are born with higher levels of emotional sensitivity than others and experience emotions on a particularly profound level. These individuals are sometimes referred to as “super-sensors” or highly sensitive. There are upsides to being a super-sensor with big feelings, such as the capacity to feel compassion for others very deeply. There can also be a challenges:  big emotions can sometimes be hard to handle and bear – for the child or teen and for family members.

What can individuals and families do to move toward the lives they want– lives worth living with greater emotional, behavioral and cognitive stability?  At the Institute for Girls’ Development, we offer various treatment options for coping with big feelings.  One option is Dialectical Behavior Therapy – a “known-to-work” modality of treatment. All of our therapy services for individuals, groups and families are being offered online via Telehealth (online therapy) during the coronavirus crisis. Telehealth can be a safe and effective way to connect with an experienced therapist via a secure video platform. For more information, please see our coronavirus Practice Plan and resources.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a highly structured, individualized treatment that teaches skills that make a difference.  Through DBT, pre-teens, teens, adults, and parents have the opportunity to learn a variety of skills in four key areas:

• Mindfulness
• Emotional regulation
• Interpersonal effectiveness
• Distress tolerance

DBT seeks to balance two concepts that may appear to be quite opposite: acceptance and change. As we learn to both accept our situation and make changes that are possible, life becomes worth living.

DBT, developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, is based on cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness principles.  It is an evidence-based treatment approach originally designed for helping individuals with the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.  Ongoing research on DBT shows that it is effective for helping adults and teens who struggle with symptoms and diagnoses such as intense emotions, self-injury, suicidal thoughts, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed to provide skills and support to youth and adults with big feelings.

At the Institute, our DBT team provides:

DBT-informed program for children in upper elementary school
Comprehensive DBT treatment for preteens, teens, and young adults
• Graduate groups for teens and young adults who have completed comprehensive DBT

The Institute’s Comprehensive DBT Program

Comprehensive DBT consists of five components:

• Weekly Individual DBT Therapy Session: Your child or teen will meet individually each week with a therapist who has training in DBT.
• Weekly Group DBT Therapy Session:  Additionally, your child or teen will attend a weekly group session for skills training and review. Parents attend these group sessions as well.
• Phone Skills Coaching:  In between sessions, our DBT therapists are available to provide skills coaching.
• Parent Coaching:  We provide a minimum of once-a-month parent coaching sessions as well to offer support and guidance for parents.
• Consultation: The DBT team meets weekly to provide the clinical team members with consultation, education, and support.

Who might benefit from the comprehensive DBT program?

Preteens, teens and young women (ages 12-28) who are experiencing some combination of the following difficulties are possible candidates for our comprehensive DBT program:

• School/work avoidance
• Difficulty controlling actions in the face of strong emotions
• Frequent feelings of dissatisfaction in relationships
• Difficulty maintaining relationships
• Difficulty maintaining employment due to symptoms/behaviors
• Frequent and intense feelings of loneliness, depression, worthlessness, worry and anxiety
• Frequently feeling misunderstood by family and friends
• Multiple life problems
• Suicidal thoughts
• Self-injury
• Recent or frequent hospitalizations
• Recent discharge or graduation from a residential or wilderness program

Additional DBT Information and Resources

What are the DBT Skills?
The Role of Parents in DBT
Assumptions about our DBT Clients and our Commitments
Application and Evaluation Process
Helping Kids to Confidently Ride the Waves of Big Feelings
• Interested in learning more about DBT? We recommend this informative video by Dr. Esme Shaller: What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy for adolescents (DBT)?

Abstracts from Professional Publications


Our DBT Team

Get to know our experienced DBT team!


Contact our Intake Coordinator at intake@IFGD.care or 626.585.8075 ext 108.  Curious about the process of getting started in therapy? Read our guide!


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