How Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Helps Adolescents Suffering from Self-Harm Behavior

Mother comforts daughter suffering from self-harm behavior

Going through adolescence has never been easy, and today’s teens face some unique challenges. Tragically, the stresses facing young people sometimes result in extreme mental health problems, including self-harm behavior and suicidal thoughts.

Reach out to 911 or the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline now if you know an adolescent with a plan for suicide.

Young people struggling with self-harm behavior also need deeper, more long-term support to address the roots of their mental health disturbances and self-harming behaviors. Suicide prevention for young people needs to include therapeutic support.

At Nugent Family Counseling Center, we’re here to help your family in times of crisis. We offer comprehensive therapeutic support to our teen patients dealing with self-harm behaviors and suicidal ideation from locations in San Jose, California, Los Gatos, California, and Reno, Nevada.

As studies have shown, one of the best tools available to help young people with these mental health challenges is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). How does this form of therapy work? Here’s what Dr. Geoff Nugent and the Nugent Family Counseling Center team want you to understand about DBT.

How DBT works

DBT is a powerful tool for inner transformation. This form of treatment doesn’t use any invasive measures. Instead, during DBT, patients are encouraged to reconsider deeply-held beliefs and patterns of response to pain, trauma, and other difficult feelings.

DBT differs from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in several key ways that make it an ideal approach for teenagers dealing with self-harm and suicide problems. DBT incorporates elements of CBT with additional elements like distress tolerance and assertiveness training.

DBT is easy to use in combination with other mental health treatment or management strategies, as well.

How DBT benefits teens

With DBT, teens stay in charge of their mental health treatment. Autonomy is important to adolescents, and they need support in moving into adult self-responsibility that reflects this importance, as DBT does.

In DBT treatment, the relationship with your provider is never adversarial. Your provider doesn’t lecture, scold, shame, or tell you what to do. Instead, you work with your provider as a team, united against the problems that you face. 

When you’re sure that your counselor is on your side, it’s easier to take a look at potentially self-destructive behaviors and responses to the pressures you face. Without judgment, change may feel more possible, including incremental changes that can build up to a big transformation over time.

Using DBT to move forward

DBT helps patients process painful experiences in the past, and prepare for a brighter future tomorrow. Those are both skills that many young people need support to develop or strengthen.

The validation patients receive during DBT is an essential part of the healing process. Your provider acknowledges everything you’ve been going through, and helps you find sympathy for yourself. You might need space to grieve, or to feel angry, and your provider at Nugent Family Counseling Center helps you find that space.

DBT also encourages looking toward the present and the future, taking steps to assert the patient’s power to self-actualize, gain resilience, and self-regulate difficult emotions.

DBT can effectively help teenagers who show warning signs of self-harm, or who have already experienced self-harm episodes. DBT may be able to prevent future self-harm behavior.

To learn more about how DBT can help troubled teens, contact Nugent Family Counseling Center today. Schedule your first appointment by calling the location nearest to you, or request an appointment online