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Beyond Play Therapy - DBT for Children

“Anger outbursts, temper tantrums, and difficulty self-soothing” are oftentimes behaviors appearing in children within the home and/or school setting and can be indicative of a need for intervention.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Children (DBT-C) is a therapeutic modality that works with both children and parents to assist with emotion regulation through identifying effective coping strategies. Children who have a history of emotional outbursts, tantrums, and/or aggressive behaviors strongly benefit from this modality. This model has been utilized in clinical trials with children diagnosed with Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Mood Disorder (DMDD), characterized by severe impairment in self-regulation and high emotional sensitivity. This modality is also effective with children who suffer from anxiety and depressive symptoms.

The three main categories of DBT-C are:

- Decrease risk of psychopathology in the future through early identification and intervention.

- Target parent-child relationship.

- Target child’s presenting problems (risky, unsafe, and/or aggressive behaviors).

Within this model, parents are taught skills on how to most appropriately interact with their child when emotional dysregulation occurs. This modality is most effective when accompanied by weekly homework assignment completion and regular practice in the home alongside of individual weekly therapy sessions. Parents are taught and equipped with effective reinforcement strategies to assist their children in verbally communicating their emotions and avoiding possible behavioral disruptions within the home.

DBT-C is a 32-week program, with the first 6 – 8 weeks being parent-only sessions with a DBT-trained clinician to provide education and tips for success once individual therapy between the child and clinician begins. Weekly homework assignments accompany each session to assist with education and practice within the home.

DBT-C was adapted by Francheska Perepletchikova, Ph. D. from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), initially developed by Marsha Linehan. This modality has proven effective in numerous clinical studies across a wide age range, from children through adulthood.

For more information on the efficacy and background of DBT-C, please visit

Jordyn Haney, MSW, LCSW

Therapist – Bridges Therapeutic Services, PLLC.

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