DBT Services


The Center for CBT provides comprehensive dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for adolescents (DBT-A), young adults (DBT-YA), and children and families (DBT-CF). DBT is an active, skills-based treatment that provides individuals with validation and positive regard, while at the same time guiding them to make positive behavioral changes in their lives. Through a supportive and goal-oriented therapeutic environment, individuals and their families will learn new and effective skills for thinking and acting.

DBT is a gold standard treatment for individuals who have difficulties with emotional regulation and other complex challenges. Originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder, DBT has been adapted, studied, and found to be effective for helping adolescents and young adults dealing with multiple problems, including chronic difficulties with managing emotions, maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships, tolerating distress, and controlling impulses. Research also indicates that DBT helps to reduce suicide attempts, self-harming behavior, and hospitalizations while improving social functioning, coping, and quality of life. DBT has also been modified and found to be effective in helping to reduce emotion regulation and behavioral difficulties among school age children. Many adolescents, young adults, and families who have had unsuccessful experiences in other therapies have had achieved successful outcomes in DBT.

Should you be considering DBT?

DBT is designed to address a broad range of problems. If your child, teen, or young adult has experienced some of the following challenges, they may benefit from DBT:

  • Mood swings
  • Anger problems
  • Ups and downs in relationships
  • Thoughts that you would be better off dead
  • Multiple suicide attempts
  • Self-injurious behaviors (e.g., cutting)
  • Problematic behaviors such as binging and/or purging or skipping school
  • Intense feelings of emptiness
  • Dissociation or fear that others are purposely out to harm you
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Lack of compliance or motivation in previous treatments
  • Previous therapy did not work for you

Our DBT Services

Comprehensive DBT for Adolescents (DBT-A)

The DBT-A Program at the Center for CBT is the first of its kind in Middlesex County. With the overarching goal of building a life worth living, DBT helps adolescents develop a tool kit of strategies to deal with the myriad of personal, social, familial, and academic challenges during this developmental stage. Couched within a validating and goal-oriented environment, adolescents are guided to make positive behavioral changes in their lives through the combination of individual therapy, phone coaching, and multi-family skills group. As parents are important figures in their teen’s lives, one or both must play an active role in the treatment process by attending the multi-family skills group and, as needed, parent and family sessions. Parent participation helps parents to more effectively validate and respond to their teen’s emotional difficulties, as well as to better manage their own emotions.

Comprehensive DBT Program for Young Adults (DBT-YA)

The DBT-YA Program at the Center for CBT is designed to address the unique challenges that come with emerging adulthood. Individuals experiencing this transitional period may be faced with one or more life-changing situations. These may include the challenges that come with managing academic stress, finding a sense of direction post-graduation, settling into a new living environment, experiencing a shift in social relationships, or finding and maintaining employment, among other situations. This period of adjustment can be particularly challenging for individuals who have difficulty with behaviors such as emotional dysregulation, tolerating distress, controlling impulses, and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. DBT-YA fosters increased independence in young adults by equipping them with the skills necessary to face their challenges skillfully and with confidence.  The program supports young adults using a combination of one-on-one sessions, skills group, and phone coaching. When appropriate, it also provides an opportunity for parent engagement and support.

DBT Skills Group

The DBT Skills Group is designed for participants who do not require participation in our Comprehensive DBT Program, and are looking to learn DBT skills. This may include clients whose symptoms are less severe or who are receiving their individual therapy with an outside clinician. The adolescent DBT skills group is for both teens and their parents, while the young adult group is only for the client themself. DBT Skills Group teaches participants skills related to mindfulness, tolerating painful emotions in difficult situations, interpersonal effectiveness, managing emotions, and walking the middle path. The group has a class-like format that includes handouts, take-home exercises, and experiential activities.

DBT for Children and Families (DBT-CF)

DBT-CF is a unique program for school age children with emotion regulation difficulties. The specific skills of mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness are based on the DBT-A skills curriculum, but taught with several modifications. First, skills are taught at a slower pace. Second, the skills are discussed at a simpler, more developmentally appropriate level. And third, the teaching format encourages discussion of personal examples to maximize the relatability and applicability of the skills. As the strengths and skill deficits for each child and family can be quite varied, the treatment format for DBT-CF includes a combination of individual child treatment, parenting strategies, and/or family skills training. Treatment is typically conducted during the course of two therapy sessions per week, with the specific modes of treatment individually determined based on the needs of each family.

Components of DBT Treatment

Comprehensive DBT treatment requires a significant time commitment on the part of the individual client and, in some situations, their parent(s). This intensive format is necessary to treat the complex problems that DBT addresses. The following is a brief overview of the different components of DBT treatment:

Skills Training: DBT Skills Group (or individual family skills for younger children) focuses on teaching participants skills in mindfulness, tolerating painful emotions in difficult situations, interpersonal effectiveness, managing emotions, and walking the middle path. The highly structured, skill-oriented group takes place once time each week and lasts one hour and forty-five minutes. It has a class-like format that includes handouts, take-home exercises, and experiential activities. Despite the interactive style, there is no expectation that group members share information that is uncomfortable for them to discuss.

Individual Therapy: During individual therapy, clients apply the skills they have learned in group or family skills to their specific challenges. Individual sessions in DBT are structured and collaborative in terms of identifying behaviors targeted for change, generating solution strategies, applying the skills learned, and improving decision-making skills.

Phone Coaching: Clients and the caregivers are encouraged to call their therapists between sessions for brief phone calls during any challenging situations to discuss strategies to effectively cope. These “coaching calls” help clients and their parents to generalize the skills they are learning to their real-world environment.

Parent/Family Sessions: Sessions with parents/caregivers, both with and without the client, are provided on an as-needed basis.

Core Skills Taught in DBT

DBT is comprised of five core modules, which are taught to participants:

Mindfulness: The ability to observe and experience the present moment without judgment.  Individuals learn to notice and experience their emotions and thoughts —without always acting upon them.

Emotion Regulation: Helping individuals learn behavioral and cognitive techniques for reducing their vulnerability to, and enhancing their ability to cope with, overwhelming emotion.

Distress Tolerance: Helping individuals learn ways to get through difficult moments without making impulsive decisions they may regret.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: Assertiveness and other communications skills are emphasized with the aim of helping individuals achieve their goals, maintain healthy relationships, and maintain their self-respect even after conflicts.

Walking the Middle Path: Learning to live a more balanced life and avoid the emotional and behavioral extremes that frequently lead to stress.

Join our DBT Program?

If you or your child is struggling and you think that DBT may be helpful, please feel free to contact us for more information.