cartoon of online therapy
Child Therapy, DBT, Teenagers

Can DBT Skills Group Be Taught Online?

Does A DBT Skills Group Work on Telehealth? The short answer, YES IT DOES!

The new year is here, and we are excited to offer DBT skills training groups for 4 different age populations.  I want to use this space to talk more directly about what DBT skills training is and how we are learning to navigate the good, the bad, and the in-between of online therapy groups. 

Why join an online DBT therapy group?

We often feel alone in our emotions, thoughts, urges, and behaviors. This can amplify feelings of shame and reinforce stigma. Groups have the ability to normalize all of these experiences.

One of DBT’s foundational principles is to understand that all emotions, thoughts, and behaviors serve a function. Discussing this and practicing with peers can help normalize and mobilize both acceptance and change. 

DBT skills groups create a space for healthy peer engagement while learning how to apply practical skills to everyday life.  It is be a powerful space for those hesitant to explore challenges individually and provide a different type of support for those who are already doing so.  

All of these powerful benefits remain, even while doing group therapy online.

How do you plan on getting engagement during online therapy groups?

As therapists, we have been learning and growing with the strengths and challenges of a telehealth platform for months now. One of the most important guidelines for all of our groups is that everyone’s camera must be on. This helps ensure the safety of all members. It creates a safe and supportive space to encourage group members to share, and allows group members to practice social skills even online.

For our younger group members, we expect an adult to be home during the online group sessions to help effectively facilitate engagement challenges if they arise. Our therapists will be in communication with group members’ families to help address these challenges. We will encourage all group members to be attentive and either verbally or non-verbally engaged.    

Of course, we cannot be all-knowing. This is a common theme within acceptance and control that both therapists and parents grapple with. Along with providing short breaks during the group sessions, we hope to provide a space that focuses on experiential learning versus purely didactic teaching. And we encourage all group members to provide feedback on how the experience is for them to help shape the space to fit their needs as a group. 

Is it going too feel like online school?

Not only are our therapists highly skilled, but we also value the all too important, yet sometimes forgotten art, of having fun. As group leaders, we are committed to making this therapy space different than a typical classroom setting. There are many tools available to use as group leaders to help engage clients. Some are specific to the telehealth platform such as screen sharing, breakout rooms, chat boxes, and jamboards. 

But really our emphasis is on experiential, hands-on learning. This is important to all of our group leaders, who use a mixture of teaching styles such as videos, music, roleplays, and other creative art approaches to teach the DBT skills.  Each week the group leader will contact group members if extra materials should be gathered prior to the session.  

What about distractions during online group therapy?

Some of the more common challenges that arise during telehealth sessions are the persistent distractions. Especially from other websites and phone use. We suggest using fullscreen mode to minimize onscreen distractions and turning off your notifications in your computer settings. It is also wise (although admittedly difficult) to keep your phone in another room entirely.

Back view of Asian business woman talking an online Group therapy.

How do you plan on dealing with resistance from group members?

Within the DBT framework, one aspect of willfulness is related to refusing to take action when change is needed. Willfulness can show up in a group setting in many ways . It is the responsibility of the group leader, along with the willingness of other group members, to effectively identify and work through willfulness. 

Groups have the power to practice healthy conflict and use these opportunities as a therapeutic learning moment for all participants. As group leaders, we strive to non-judgmentally acknowledge willfulness and role model ways to intervene with both empathy and accountability.

With that said, it is important that group members want to be in group. While group leaders and group members can address willfulness in the moment, it is important that a group member is ready to join. This means they will be able to get the most out of what we have to offer. For those hesitant or unwilling to join group, individual DBT therapy can be an appropriate space to get ready and willing.

Want to Learn more about Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Groups?!

Check out these other recent blogs: What is a DBT Skills Group? and A Parent’s Guide to DBT Skills Groups or our main services page about our DBT Skills Groups.

You or your child can join anytime! All you have to do is contact us!

About the Author

Lizzy Kosin, LCSW-C

Lizzy Kosin, LCSW-C is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Therapist at Montgomery County Counseling Center in Rockville, MD. She earned her AM degree (equivalent to an MSW) from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Her training includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Lizzy takes a casual approach to therapy. Because of this, she works very well with kids & teens. She also works with adults who want the benefits of therapy without feeling stuffy or over-medicalized. She values the importance of the mind-body connection and using experiential activities to keep the fun in building insight and motivating towards progress. Lizzy is licensed in both Maryland and Washington DC.

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