Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a skill building therapy developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD. Though it was originally developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT has proven to be effective over a wide range of psychiatric disorders. DBT is referred to as an evidenced based therapy, meaning that it has been researched in clinical situations for effectiveness.

Tamarack incorporates DBT throughout its treatment and treatment modalities with residents. Tamarack’s Therapy Director and Milieu Manager were both trained by Dr. Linehan in DBT. Tamarack chose to use DBT in our clinical work with our residents because we have found it not only effective but also well accepted by our residents.

DBT encourages the development of behavioral skills within each resident that will help him or her better manage their emotions, self soothe, decrease personal anxiety, build interpersonal relationships, and in general better cope with life’s problems they will face.

The key to DBT success is providing an environment to both learn and integrate the DBT skills. An important part of treatment at Tamarack is first teaching the youngsters the skills, and then providing opportunities for each of them to practice using the skills in everyday situations. These new skills allow the youngster to deal more effectively with issues as opposed to past behaviors of suicide attempts, self-mutilation, or other self-defeating behaviors.

The four key DBT skills taught in treatment

  • Mindfulness: youth learn to be more attentive and present in the moment without being judgmental.
  • Distress Tolerance: youth learn to improve impulse control and to better tolerate stressful situations.
  • Emotion Regulation: youth learn to better identify their emotions, change negative emotions, and become better problem solvers.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: youth learn to better ask for what they need, better cope with interpersonal conflict, and become more effective in their communications with others.