3 Ways Family Involvement in DBT Therapy Makes a Difference

By Jeanette Lorandini

You know that your child or teen needs help.

That’s why they are now seeing a counselor and learning all about dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. However, this is only the first step towards their healing. Family involvement is crucial in order for your child to be successful.

This means participating, when appropriate, in therapy sessions. However, it also includes learning about DBT incorporating it into your everyday life with your child.

Here are three ways that family involvement in DBT therapy makes a difference.

1. Learning a New Vocabulary

First, you will learn a whole new set of vocabulary with DBT therapy. This includes your child’s diagnosis and how it affects them. However, it’s also helpful to have a working knowledge of how DBT works. DBT centers around four areas of skill development. These include:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotional regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness

Additionally, you will learn how DBT encourages thinking skills that encourage a balanced approach versus an all-or-nothing outlook.

2. Extending this Learning to Home

Family Involvement in DBT TherapyIt’s not enough that your child learns a few new skills in session, but then comes home and doesn’t use them. They must extend that learning at home and incorporate those skills into their everyday lives.

This means that you too must learn these skills and practice with your child. As we get older, it can be harder to be open to new ways of thinking and learning. We get set in our ways. Or, we believe that it’s all “their problem” that needs to get “fixed.”

The reality is that relationships work both ways. For your child to see success, they must be able to have experiences where they are successful in implementing these skills. That includes how they interact with you at home.

3. Promoting Communication and Understanding

As noted above, one of the key tenets of DBT is interpersonal effectiveness. That means being able to communicate in a way that promotes understanding between two people.

When your child uses DBT to communicate with you, and you role-model back to them, imagine the understanding that occurs! You will find that you will learn more about your child than you realized. It’s this realization that builds understanding, and with understanding comes a deepening of your relationship with your child.

DBT and Your Child

DBT is a great treatment method because its focus is on helping your child or teen develop their own skills and abilities. It’s empowering for them! They are not being dictated to.

Instead, they are becoming more independent. Pretty soon they will be utilizing a mindfulness skill to self-soothe without even having a second thought.

The Role of the Therapist

The role of the therapist when it comes to DBT and families is interesting. On the one hand, they are working with your child to develop their abilities to handle stress, manage their emotions, and to communicate. They may also work with you to help you understand what DBT is all about and to practice these skills yourselves.

What they are not trying to do is tell you one way or the other how to interact with your child. Rather, the intent is to help both of you to be on the same wavelength. When this happens, it is much easier for each of you to use the DBT skills.

To help your child be successful in therapy, family involvement is key. This means allowing your child the space to learn and develop DBT skills. But also participating with them and providing opportunities to practice. If you are curious how DBT can help both you and your child, contact me today about dialectical behavioral therapy for children.

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