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Dialectical Behavior Therapy Adolescent Multi-Family Skills Group


The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Multi-Family Group Skills Training is focused on helping teens and families learn specific skills in regulating their emotions. There are multiple skills organized in modules that are taught on a weekly basis to both adolescents and their parents together in a group format. This is not a typical therapy group where people share feelings. The group’s focus is primarily on acquiring skills that assist the teenager and parents in managing their distress, emotions, and resolve family conflict. Research supports that adolescents whom acquire and utilize these skills can reduce their frustration and suffering, change behaviors they are willing to change, improve interpersonal interactions, and solve the many problems they encounter. In addition, parents learn these skills alongside their teen, have opportunities to practice what they learn, improve their parenting effectiveness, and reduce overall conflict in the family. Each module consists of specific skills and are organized below with a short description. Your individual/family therapist can explain further information regarding group content, expectations, and respond to more specific questions.

What is the group format?
Group functions more like a class in that skills are taught each week, then practiced in group, and handouts are given for group members to practice skills at home and outside group. Each group member gets a binder with the skills manual and all the skills they will need to practice and learn for each module. The skills group trainers have the same manual.



Module 1: Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is essentially paying attention to the present moment and doing so without judgment.

How can it help?

Mindfulness works well in helping individuals understand what they are feeling internally and what is occurring in their environment. It involves two elements: focusing on completing a task, and on being aware of what’s around you. Mindfulness emphasizes awareness of the current moment, regardless of whether that moment feels good or bad, without judgment. By accepting the moment, we change our reaction to the present moment, and that can provide relief. Mindfulness is essential to learning other skills because you have to know what you are feeling if you decide you want to change those feelings.


Module 2: Distress Tolerance

What is distress tolerance?

Distress tolerance is learning to tolerate distressing feelings or situations without acting impulsively and making things worse. Often when emotions are high and we are angry, sad, or overwhelmed and can’t think straight, we make poor choices. These choices can lead to hurting others, hurting ourselves, or not getting what we want. Distress tolerance skills focus on learning how to respond effectively to calm down before attempting to make problem-solving choices. In other words, skills help you to calm down, think straight, and then decide what to do about what got you upset in the first place.



Module 3: Emotion Regulation

What is emotion regulation?

Emotion regulation is learning the reasons we have emotions, their function, and what emotions frequently motivate us to do in any given situation. This module focuses on understanding the function of emotion, and learning how to change those feelings when you want to.


Module 4: Walking the Middle Path

What is walking the middle path?

Walking the middle path skills focus primarily on adolescent/parent dialectical dilemmas. These dilemmas refer to when a teen or parent gets polarized on one side of an extreme. This is a frequent happening in families between teenagers and parents. A simple example of this is the two opposites of too loose versus too strict – in a specific family, when emotion is high and there is significant conflict, it is not surprising to find a teenager on one end of this spectrum, and a parent on the other. When this happens, it is very difficult to solve problems that the teen and parent experience. In this module, the goals are to help parents and teens find a “middle path” between these two extremes. It’s not that either position held is wrong; rather it’s just not effective for solving problems.


Module 5: Interpersonal Effectiveness

What is interpersonal effectiveness?

Interpersonal effectiveness skills helps teens learn to manage their relationships more effectively, by learning how to prioritize. These skills focus on determining the priority in any relationship, which includes building and maintaining positive relationships or keeping your self-respect. In addition, the skills focus on getting what you want or saying no effectively. In any of these situations, skills are practiced to help learn how to be more effective in relationships and to resolve problems that arise.