Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Anxiety Disorders in Children

Dialectical behavior therapy is designed to treat adolescents who have difficulty controlling their emotions and behaviors. This form of therapy may be effective for teens with complex anxiety or mood disorders that cause them to experience suicidal thoughts, engage in self-injurious behaviors, or have frequent and intense conflicts with peers, adults, or other family members.

Dialectical behavior therapy blends techniques from traditional cognitive behavioral therapy with acceptance-based strategies from Zen mindfulness practices. The goal is to help your teen build the skills necessary to envision and create a meaningful life.

The initial phase of treatment requires individual therapy sessions for your teen once or twice per week, as well as participation in a weekly skills group that includes your family and others. Sessions last for 20 weeks. Teens who participate in the program have direct access to their therapists 24 hours a day.

During individual therapy sessions, a clinician focuses on helping a teen and his or her family identify the source of the anxiety. The clinician teaches effective coping and problem-solving skills and helps the teen stay motivated to reduce his or her anxiety. Each session lasts about 45 to 60 minutes.

During the two-hour skills group, teens and their parents learn mindful behavior, how to cope with emotional upset, control his or her emotions, and get along with others. There are handouts and homework assignments, but therapists do not expect group members to share any information that they do not wish to.

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