Adolescent DBT Information for Families

Families play a key role in Adolescent DBT!


Research shows that parents'/caregivers' involvement makes treatment more effective because parents/caregivers learn to serve as coaches for their teens, as well as benefit from learning the skills themselves. As such, families play an essential role in adolescent DBT.

Parents/caregivers are required to bring their teen to scheduled individual therapy appointments. At least one parent/caregiver is required to participate in multi-family DBT skills group with their teen. Individual therapy will focus initially on working with the teen, but based on clinical assessment, family sessions will be done on an as-needed basis.

Some parents/caregivers benefit from having their own sessions with a DBT parenting coach, which will be provided on an as-needed basis.

How you can support your teen in DBT?

  • The best way to help a client who is in DBT is to let the therapy be conducted in accordance with the model. This may mean stepping back from intervening on the client's behalf and allowing the client to experience the natural consequences of his/her actions.
  • If you see the client trying to use skills or a different method of interacting with you, give him/her clear, specific, and factual feedback about how what he/she is doing/saying is working or not working.Use your newly learned skills with them "even when it's hard!"
  • Try to be consistent when interacting with the client, especially at the beginning of treatment. It is much easier for the therapist to help the client effectively interact with you if he/she knows what to expect.
  • If the client is doing something you like, tell him/her! Reinforcement goes a long way in helping behaviors change.
  • Similarly, if the client is doing something you don't like, tell him/her! While punishment (e.g., yelling,insulting,removal of privileges) does not change behavior in the long term, providing clear information to the client does help change behavior. Share things like, "When you do XXX, it does not make me want to be around you."