How is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) so effective?

By Jeanette Lorandini

What is DBT? Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for teens, adults, and children is a very effective form of therapy that combines individual therapy with skills training group sessions to support individuals in managing emotions and navigating life’s difficulties.

If you’re new to therapy, you may not be aware of the research and effectiveness behind DBT. You may be wondering if DBT is similar to other forms of therapy? What’s so special about DBT in particular and how is dialectical behavior therapy so effective?

Here at Suffolk DBT in Manhattan and Long Island, New York, we are far from “treatment as usual.” We don’t shy away from families who are struggling – we care and genuinely want to help. We are passionate about the hope and possibilities ahead for you, and we believe in the power of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for teens, adults, and children and apply the skills in our own lives.

A Strong Foundation

As DBT clinicians, we are trained by the very best. Dr. Marsha Linehan is the developer of DBT. The trainings we attend are endorsed by Behavioral Tech, founded by Dr. Linehan. The treatment was created for those with complex presentations that typically involve significant emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dysregulation.

Dr. Linehan founded Behavioral Tech, a company committed to training more qualified professionals in DBT. Their impact is focused on providing DBT training, resources, and research. Here at Suffolk DBT, we stay up to date on training, team consultation, and are working toward certification. Find our referral from Dr. Linehan’s team here.

When analyzing research for clinical intervention for suicidal behavior, DBT is the only treatment that has been shown effective in multiple trials – both in reducing suicidal behavior and also as being a more cost-saving measure compared to other methods.

All of our clinicians are trained in Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS). If an individual comes to us experiencing suicidal ideation, we are continually assessing this behavior. Learning does not end at Suffolk DBT. Our therapists and clients are always strengthening their skills.

Focus on Skill Building

With DBT, there is a focus on skill building. These four skill sets, referred to as modules, are active ingredients in DBT therapy. These four skills include managing emotions (emotion regulation), learning how to tolerate distress (crisis survival), becoming more aware (mindfulness), and improving relationships (interpersonal effectiveness).

Additionally, we teach TIPP skills – which are used when your emotions are so high that you cannot even think straight. TIPP stands for tipping the temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing and paired muscle relaxation.

DBT TIPP skills can be incredibly effective. While the goal is typically to use our coping and self-regulation abilities – sometimes an emotion is too intense and takes away our ability to use these other skills. While TIPP skills will not eliminate all strong emotions, they can take these emotions down a notch where we can make healthier and more productive decisions.

DBT skills training helps an individual understand their feelings and better manage those feelings. NYC mental health services often include DBT skills training groups for clients that need to learn effective ways of coping with intense emotions.

A woman walking through Long Island embracing herself and the DBT skill of Mindfulness.

Talented Therapists

At Suffolk DBT, our clinicians are behaviorists. If an individual is feeling suicidal or engaging in self-harm, we want to understand the function of that behavior. What purpose does this behavior serve in this person’s life, and how does their environment respond? These are only a few of the questions we find ourselves asking one another.

Our team at Suffolk DBT meets together multiple times per week to learn, grow together, and, most importantly, to provide exemplary treatment. Together, with our clients, we examine these ideas. Even when working with younger children and teens, they are able to deepen their discussions and demonstrate incredible self-growth and awareness. Once an individual has developed self-awareness, that’s where we can really assist in helping change things for the better.

The ‘Dialectical’ in DBT stands for opposing concepts or ideas of acceptance and change. We weave dialectics throughout our work. Together, the value in two polarizing ideas can help us form new meaning, understanding, and offer solutions. I may see things one way, and you may see things another way. There is truth in both of these realities. The ability to recognize this and come to acceptance radically improves relationships and changes our clients’ lives.

We examine behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and urges in our individual sessions with clients, looking at what is getting in the way. We remind our clients of their goals – big and small. We call them “life worth living goals.” Together, as client and therapist, we can help you reach those goals.

All of our highly skilled therapists strive for change with their clients. Our clinicians demonstrate qualities that both children, teens, and adults connect with. We are truly passionate about helping others. At Suffolk DBT, we model acceptance, validation, and growth. All we ask for in return is bravery from our clients and their families.

New York Family at a farmer's market, wondering if family DBT therapy is right for them?

Early Intervention

It’s no surprise that early intervention can have a profound impact on your child’s future. Adolescence and pre-adolescence are a time where patterns emerge and develop. Children who are emotionally sensitive develop ways to cope with challenges. Their brains are developing, hormones raging, and expectations are increasing.

When these children do not receive effective intervention, these individuals often go on to have difficulty with anxiety, depression, substance use, eating disorders, relational conflict, low self-esteem, suicidal thinking, and self-harm. In truth, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24 in the United States. Nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9% have made a suicide attempt.

If your child is demonstrating difficulty with emotional regulation, relationships, impulsivity, difficulty making healthy decisions, and/or is ruminating on negative thoughts, dialectical behavioral therapy for teens and children may be the best option to save your family years of heartache and unnecessary struggle.

Here at Suffolk DBT, we very often receive phone calls from worried parents concerned about their child.

The most frequent concerns we hear about are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Explosive outbursts
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Disordered eating
  • Substance use
  • Attendance concerns
  • Self-harm behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts/behaviors

There are many reasons why a parent may reach out and each situation is unique. We carefully look to work with the family to determine what is currently occurring and how treatment would be most helpful.

Trying to find a DBT provider through insurance?

Ultimately, while many families are very interested, they may go elsewhere to find a provider in their network. However, when it comes to seeking help for your child, ‘in-network’ might not be the right choice. While your insurance provider should be trusted to have experienced clinicians in their network, often they don’t ask what the therapist is providing, their training in DBT, and how their treatment plan will tackle serious behaviors. Can they handle complex cases, and do they have a track record of doing so, such as we do here at Suffolk DBT?

Check out our latest blog on what to ask a provider when referred by your insurance. If a clinic states that they are trained in DBT, they should have no difficulty answering your questions with honesty and transparency.

Unfortunately, many parents will spend years taking their child from one therapist to the next. This requires time, co-pays, and sometimes, unfortunately, costly emergency room visits or hospitalizations. Meanwhile, the family is seeing minimal progress and time is being wasted. Their child continues to feel miserable with no new skills to show for.

As a society, we can be guilty of placing too much emphasis on education or our children’s performance. Without hesitation, most of us would do what was necessary to get our child into the best school or onto the best team. Yet, our children’s emotional needs are often sacrificed. When your child comes to treatment with us, they are getting a team of people who care about them and their future.

If you are utilizing insurance, make sure you find a clinician that is trained and competent in DBT. We only want what’s best for you and your family. Ultimately, your time would be better spent with a treatment approach that is time limited, backed by evidence, with research that has proven superior to treatment as usual.

Additionally, choosing a provider that invests heavily in training ensures that you leave therapy feeling more empowered and skillful than when you entered. When sessions are structured to figure out what is getting in the way, families can get back to what matters most. This is how dialectical behavior therapy is so effective.

A Focus on Family

Here at Suffolk DBT, we also offer family therapy. Countless times over the years, we have heard parents say, “I wish we would have done this sooner.” They didn’t have the answer to how is dialectical behavior therapy so effective until they saw the proof in their own lives.

DBT family therapy sessions are often an important opportunity to assist parents in observing how they influence and may maintain patterns of behavior that their children are exhibiting.

For example, a child who is demonstrating anxiety about going to school may cry or beg to stay home. In this instance, the child is not being bullied but is overwhelmed with their schoolwork. Most parents hate to see their child this upset or overwhelmed. In the case where the parent gives in and allows the child to stay home, the child feels instant relief. Therefore, without intending, the parent just reinforced future avoidance behaviors.

In the above example, the child’s only chance for relief is the parent coming to the rescue and giving in. In these cases, we often see that the pattern gets worse. The child learns no new positive skills for dealing with this problem. As clinicians, we work with families to look for solutions, patterns, and we come up with solutions on how to work together – child and parent. Ultimately, helping the child grow.

For more information on DBT for children, check out this blog post from Dr. Linehan’s team at Behavioral Tech.

So how is dialectical behavior therapy so effective?

Here at Suffolk DBT, we are highly trained to provide the most effective DBT services in NYC. With our support, skills are learned and client lives are enhanced. Talking about your life with a complete stranger takes some getting used to, but there is so much power and potential to giving yourself this space. We hope to see you soon.

Suffolk DBT proudly provides quality dialectical behavior therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, at their offices in Manhattan and Long Island, New York and online. Their experienced NYC therapists specialize in serving teens, children, adults, and college students struggling with depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and self-harm. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills and treatment can help you or your kids to manage emotions and work through life’s challenges.

A woman searching online for "DBT therapist near me" but frustrated with providers who do not offer comprehensive DBT like at Suffolk DBT.Finding a Qualified DBT Therapist
Teen girl interested in DBT treatment looks out over an expansive city. The DBT skills she's learning in teen therapy help her regulate her overwhelming feelings.The Good and Bad of New York City Life for Teens