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Child Therapy, DBT, Teenagers

A Parent’s Guide to DBT Skills Groups

There’s nothing worse than feeling helpless as a caregiver. I am not a parent myself. But, as a caregiver, I can totally relate to the gut-wrenching feeling of not knowing how to help someone you love. I imagine this is what parents of struggling kids feel pretty often. Layer on top of that the fear, anger, guilt, and exhaustion, and raising a child or teen with mental health concerns is nothing short of impossible.

When kids struggle with poor emotional regulation, their moods shift between lashing out and withdrawal. When this happens, it is incredibly difficult to understand what is actually going on. Let alone what you can do to help. If you’re child experiences these intense emotions, they may benefit from a DBT skills group like the ones we offer at Montgomery Country Counseling.

Why Does My Child Struggle with Safely Expressing Their Emotions Appropriately?

image shows a pre-teen boy struggles with emotional regulation ranging from angry to depressed. His parents are considering putting him in an online DBT skills group in Maryland with a DBT therapist from Montgomery County Counseling CenterLearning to express emotions in a healthy way is a lengthy process. Because, in order to do it, an individual has to go through these steps:

  1. They have to be aware of their own emotions and what is causing them.
  2. They have to learn to soothe and cope with distress so that the emotion itself doesn’t get in the way of communication.
  3. They have to work up the courage to talk about their feelings, even when it’s hard.
  4. They have to use communication skills to effectively ask for what they need without damaging their relationships.

A kid who is lashing out is likely stuck at step two. Their emotions are taking over and they don’t know how to self-regulate. A kid who withdrawing is likely stuck at step 3. They don’t have the ability to challenge their own fears or insecurities of talking about their feelings. Most kids get stuck at both of these steps at different times.

To truly understand and help your child, they need to have a toolbox of skills that will help them go through these four steps.

What is a DBT skills Group and How Does it Help?

A DBT Skills Group is an opportunity to give people the tools they need to express their emotions effectively and safely. This helps parents and caregivers actually understand what’s going on and why their child is upset so they can hopefully help their child cope.

In a DBT Skills Training group, we teach people the tools they need to master all four of these steps. The four steps closely mirror the four modules of the DBT Skills Training Curriculum.

DBT Skill 1: Mindfulness

The first category of skills we teach in a DBT skills group is mindfulness. This helps tackle step one. Mindfulness skills are essential to help a client understand the emotions they are experiencing. After all, if they don’t know what is occurring internally, how could they pick another skill to help with it?

DBT Skill 2: Distress Tolerance

teen girl sits on the floor against a wall looking upset. She gets a DBT and joins an online DBT skills group in maryland or an online DBT skills group in Virginia or an online DBT skills group in Washington DCThe second category is Distress Tolerance. This aligns with step two. Someone who is using distress tolerance skills will be able to ride the wave of their emotions. They will do so without engaging in negative or destructive coping behaviors like tantrums, explosive outbursts, and substance abuse, which make the situation worse. While they won’t actually change their feelings and emotions, they will have the tools to get through uncomfortable emotions. They will be able to tolerate distress well enough to stay in the driver’s seat rather than letting their emotion take control of the wheel.

DBT Skill 3: Emotional Regulation

The third module is emotion regulation. This is the category that aligns with step three. These tools help people challenge their cognitive distortions and unhelpful thoughts and feelings and act in ways that prevent furniture intense emotions.

DBT Skill 4: Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

And lastly, in module 4, we teach interpersonal effectiveness skills. These tools help someone express their needs while also preserving good relationship ju-ju. It will also help them learn to show themselves compassion and self-respect.

Ultimately, if you want to help your child or teen better manage their emotions and stop engaging in maladaptive coping behaviors, DBT Skills Training is the answer! You will FINALLY be able to understand their needs and stop feeling helpless when you give your kids the emotional and relational tools they need to be successful.

Our Therapists’ Goals for DBT at MCCC

Evidenced-based DBT treatment includes four different parts. These components include DBT skills training groups, DBT individual therapy, in-the-moment skills coaching, and team support for your DBT therapist team. At Montgomery County Counseling Center, we combine these components. We are both adherent to the research and also flexible to our clients’ needs.

Our therapists have FOUR key goals and principles of how we use Dialectical Behavior Therapy to help our clients!

Goal 1: To keep your kid out of inpatient at all costs.

Hospitalization is a very temporary bandaid for safety. In fact, hospitalization often exacerbates long term problems of shame, stigma, and trauma. Of course, it is necessary if there is absolutely no other way to keep someone safe. But, if we can work on de-escalation skills and increased supervision to prevent it, then LET’S DO THAT!

Goal 2: To work with the whole environment in mind.

In order to change an environment that increases the likelihood of intense emotions and ineffective behaviors, we like to help the whole family system. Whether it be with concurrent parent coaching or workshops, couples therapy, or individual therapy, we know that supporting the entire healing environment will help your child or teen heal.

Goal 3: To collaborate with your entire treatment team.

Focusing on the entire healing environment also means working with your psychiatrist, previous therapists, family therapists. All team members need to be aligned with the same treatment goals. At MCCC we value this collaboration so much! Then, once you’ve stabilized, we ultimately want to turn over the reins for you to do the coordination yourself. In DBT this is called consultation to the client which is basically “teach a man to fish”. Teaching you how to coordinate your own care is essential for our last goal which is…

Goal 4: To work ourselves out of a job!

We want you or your child to be able to manage emotions not just when life is going well, but when it’s not going well. The goal of therapy isn’t for you to feel good all the time. It is for you to be able to cope and navigate and improve even when it is not. This means front-loading therapeutic support and skills training at the beginning of treatment. Then, gradually reducing the scaffolding as you generalize and apply skills independently. As you begin to proactively prevent and/or cope with life’s challenges, you’ll no longer need us. This is the mark of true therapeutic success and what we strive for at MCCC.

Join an Online DBT Skills Group at Montgomery County Counseling

African American teen girl meets with her online DBT skills group in Virginia where she works with a DBT therapist to learn emotional regulation and DBT skills.

You don’t have to feel powerless when your child is lashing out or withdrawing. You can give them the tools they need to express their big feelings appropriately and cope with the distress they’re experiencing. A DBT skills group with a skilled DBT Therapist can help! 

To begin counseling in Rockville, MD, follow these steps:

  1. Contact our DC area counseling clinic to make an appointment
  2. Meet with a DBT therapist
  3. Begin DBT and work on skills to best manage extreme emotions. 

Other Services Offered at Montgomery Counseling Center in Rockville, MD

DBT sounds great, but it isn’t quite what you want…

DBT is a mindset and a way of life. If it’s not for you, I understand. We weave these themes into all of our therapy services in Rockville, MD which is near Washington DC. Your treatment approach doesn’t have to be 100% DBT. In addition to DBT and DBT Skills groups, we offer parent coachingfamily therapy, teen therapy, child therapy, adult therapy, and couples counseling. We also offer an online parenting class for parents of struggling teens or young adults. Also, some of our clinicians provide supervision opportunities for mental health professionals seeking their professional license. Right now we are offering all our services via online therapy in Maryland, online therapy in Virginia, and online therapy in Washington DC. 

Reach out to our therapy clinic to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your family heal and thrive.

About The Author

Photo of Laura Goldstein, a family therapist and DBT expert

Laura Goldstein, LCMFT is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist in Rockville Maryland and Founder of Montgomery County Counseling Center, LLC. Laura obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Family Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Laura became intensively trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) through Behavioral Tech Linehan Institute in 2015. She is also Level 1 Trained in Gottman Couples Therapy. After working in both substance use and failure to launch IOP programs, Laura now works in her private practice alongside her excellent associates! Montgomery County Counseling Center serves individuals, families, parents, and couples who are struggling with intense emotions, fraught relationships, and maladaptive coping behaviors.

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