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Mood Disorders Center

Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Teens and Young Adults

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a state-of-the-art, evidence-based form of cognitive behavioral therapy for teenagers and adults who experience significant trouble managing their emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

In order to more effectively manage intense emotions that can lead to impulsive decision-making and problematic behaviors, patients participating in DBT learn how to practice mindfulness — fully being present in the moment and focusing on one thing at a time, without judgment — along with new problem-solving skills. When mindful awareness is combined with effective problem-solving skills, sensitive and emotionally reactive teenagers and young adults have the tools to respond flexibly to difficult and stressful life experiences.

This approach has helped teenagers and young adults who struggle with any or all of the following:

  • Impulsive/disruptive behaviors
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Self-injurious and suicidal behaviors
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Family and peer conflict
  • Anger outbursts
  • Eating disordered behaviors
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Poor coping skills

Considerable research has been conducted on DBT for adolescents and adults, and multiple randomized controlled research trials have demonstrated its effectiveness. At the Child Mind Institute, we treat many young people who struggle with emotional ups and downs and assist families who want to help their children manage these intense emotional fluctuations. DBT is an excellent option for those who want a comprehensive treatment that teaches emotional, behavioral and cognitive skills.

DBT Skills Training

  1. Understanding, managing and regulating emotions
  2. Tolerating distress and crises without making problems bigger
  3. Maintaining satisfying relationships with others
  4. Increasing self-awareness, expanding one’s ability to recognize alternative points of view and managing emotional situations
  5. Increasing problem-solving skills, learning validation and effectively managing differences of opinion with family members

Current research suggests that DBT may also be effective for children and preadolescents (aged 8 – 13) who struggle with intense emotions, disruptive behaviors, and challenging relationships.

Our team of expert clinical psychologists and board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrists encourages preteens, teenagers and young adults to healthfully cope with painful emotions and take action towards positive self-care.

DBT Treatment Approach and Services


All new patients to the Child Mind Institute will be given a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation by one of our team clinicians, in part to determine if DBT is the best therapeutic intervention for them. Full diagnostic feedback and treatment recommendations will be given as part of the evaluation. Current patients will participate in consultation for the same purpose.


Participants in the adolescent and young adult DBT programs agree to commit to the following core components for 5 months of treatment, with an option to repeat. Participants in the preadolescent DBT program agree to commit to the following core components for 7 months of treatment, with an option to repeat.

Please click here for information on DBT for children and preadolescents

DBT Skills Training Groups

Adolescent Multifamily Skills Group

  • Ages 12-18
  • Weekly for 90 minutes

Teens and parents/caregivers attend group together to learn core DBT skills. Parents learn how to more effectively communicate with their children, enhance their own coping skills and empower their child to use DBT skills to deal with problems.

Young Adult Skills Group

  • Ages 18-25
  • Weekly for 90 minutes

Young adults attend groups with peers who experience similar concerns. Separate parent consultation is available for young adults who would like support from their parents in the treatment process.

Graduate Group for Adolescents

Teens who have completed the Multifamily Skills Group are eligible to participate in this weekly group aimed at helping them continue to practice their DBT skills while receiving consultation and support from peers.

DBT Individual Therapy

Meeting 1 – 2 sessions each week, participants work on specific problem behaviors and apply techniques learned in the skills group to their goals.

Skills Coaching by Phone

Available to help participants apply skills at the moment they are needed before high-risk behaviors occur.

Consultation Team

Our clinicians meet regularly as a consultation team to support one another and think creatively about the best ways to help teens and their families.

DBT Parent Management Training

Parents have the opportunity to work on specific problem behaviors and parenting goals by combining techniques learned in the skills group with parent management training. Offered on an as needed basis.

Also includes medication management as needed.

For more information please contact Ruby Paisner by email at ruby.paisner@childmind.org or by phone 646.625.4367.

Our Team

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