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DBT Skills for Adolescents

DBT for adolescent depression is often used to help teens manage difficult emotions and develop the skills they need to thrive. DBT skills for adolescent treatment include mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance, which we’ll cover in the sections below.


Mindfulness is one of the key DBT skills for adolescent therapy. This skill helps clients gain a greater awareness of their feelings by practicing what’s sometimes called non-judgemental present-focused awareness. This type of awareness helps teens process feelings without being overwhelmed by them or invalidating those feelings. 

Like all of the skills related to DBT, mindfulness takes practice. In fact, many therapists view mindfulness as one of the toughest DBT skills to master. However, with enough time and practice while working alongside a trained therapist, a teen can master mindfulness and use this technique to gain greater control of their most distressing emotions. 

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation is another one of the key DBT skills for teens. This is another one of the DBT techniques that helps teens with stress management and avoiding being overcome by intense emotions. 

One of the most often-used DBT emotion regulation skills is the STOP acronym. This acronym stands for:

  • Stop: Pause before you make any more decisions.
  • Take a step back: Remove yourself from the troubling situation if you can.
  • Observe: Take note of what you see and feel without attempting to change or address it.
  • Proceed mindfully

The goal of this emotional regulation skill and others like it is to separate a person’s emotions from the situation at hand. In a troubling situation, this skill can help a teen pause and avoid being overwhelmed by a wave of emotion.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness is one of the most nuanced aspects of dialectical behavior therapy. The primary goal of DBT interpersonal effectiveness is to help develop healthy relationships without letting automatic negative thoughts get in the way. 

According to the DBT philosophy, everyone has to learn interpersonal effectiveness skills — no one is born with natural proficiency in building healthy relationships or getting out of toxic social dynamics. 

Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance is another one of the DBT techniques that helps teens deal with overwhelming emotions and triggering circumstances. Distress tolerance skills are some of the most important DBT skills for adolescent treatment, as adolescence in itself can feel like a wave of overwhelming emotion. 

At the crux of this DBT skill is responding to a troubling action or circumstance with an opposite action, such as a self-soothing or relaxation technique. This response relies on the acknowledgement that the difference between ordinary pain and suffering is acceptance; pain with acceptance is just ordinary pain, while pain without acceptance is profound suffering.

Final Thoughts

DBT skills for adolescents can be crucial pieces of support in a teen’s recovery from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. If you want to know more about how DBT can help your struggling teen, contact Evolve Treatment today. You can call for a free consultation at 1-833-487-0852.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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