(KXNET) — Many generations of kids and adults have suffered from chronic emotional dysregulation, which can often lead to suicidal and self-harming behaviors when individuals lack effective treatment options.

According to a news release from Dakota Family Services, therapists and psychiatrists recognize the plight of those people, but because of the complexity and lack of knowledge, they are unable to treat them successfully.

Many people have been told they simply could not be helped. Even now, people who suffer from acute psychiatric disorders are seen as burdens in the mental health system. Some have even been told that they’re manipulative or that they don’t want to get better.

When COVID-19 worsened the mental health crisis, it became important to understand the chronic symptoms and behaviors of “untreatable” mental health sufferers. This is where Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) comes in.

DBT is a decades-old treatment that is proven effective for treating people who suffer from serious and chronic mental illness. American psychologist, Dr. Marsha Linehan, noticed traditional therapies didn’t work for those with chronic suicidality. Therapies that focused on understanding and changing behaviors made people feel invalidated, while therapies that focused on acceptance didn’t help people move toward healing. Dr. Linehan combined strategies of cognitive behavior therapies and the acceptance focus of mindfulness and eastern philosophies to create DBT, which has grown to be seen as a respected style of treatment.

What is DBT?

DBT is supposed to be a comprehensive treatment with weekly individual therapy, weekly skills group, phone coaching, and a weekly consultation meeting for therapists, but some therapists only use pieces of DBT. Dakota Family Services has a DBT Program that is faithful to Dr. Linehan’s model and is the only comprehensive, intensive program in the state.

Their program is an all-encompassing treatment. People can learn new skills, learn about themselves, and build a life worth living. The multi-family groups teach adolescents and their families the skills they need to improve their abilities to tolerate emotions, be present in the moment, regulate emotions, and build relationships.

Why DBT?

DBT is a unique creation of human connection and relationships. It allows psychologists to build real connections with those that come to the office, where both can be themselves. Some adolescents feel as though this is the first safe connection they’ve felt in a long time.

DBT has individual sessions as well we family skills groups, where people can heal and make mistakes without having a fear of abandonment.

The four basic assumptions of DBT are as follows:

  1. Therapists can make mistakes.
  2. Everyone is doing the best they can.
  3. Everyone needs to try harder, do better, and be more motivated to change.
  4. Everyone wants to improve and be happy.

Change is hard, and people need the right conditions in order to grow — after all, if changing was easy, they would have done it already.

The Mindfulness Difference

Leo Tolstoy said, “Remember that there is only one important time, and it is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.”

Mindfulness has several benefits and it’s a key component of DBT. It’s “paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, non-judgmentally.” The present moment is the only time people can do anything, so the skills that individuals learn in DBT are only useful if they know how to remain in the present. They practice mindfulness to give themselves options for a better way forward, and so they can choose a life worth living.

DBT Program at Dakota Family Services

Dr. Hannah Baczynski, Ph.D., Psychologist for Dakota Family Services and Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch has been intensively trained in DBT, and has a program for adolescents and their families.

The program is for people ages 13-18 who are “stuck” in therapy or engaging in dangerous behaviors. It’s a six-month program that’s available in person in Fargo and virtually, using sophisticated technology to optimize group experience.

The DBT program is covered by Medicaid and most private insurance companies. You can contact Dakota Family Services at (701) 551-7015 to see if the program is right for your child.