First Advisor

O'Halloran, M. Séan

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Date Created



Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has recently been shown to be an effective therapy for treating adolescents with suicidal and self-harming behaviors. Despite the growing interest of DBT, there is a lack of research on the subjective experiences of DBT from the perspectives of adolescent clients. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how adolescents experienced DBT in a community mental health setting. Using constructivist, case study methodology, semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine adolescent participants. Findings emerged from the shared experiences of the participants including themes related to treatment modality, use of skills, and the impact of DBT on their lives. Participants reported beneficial results such as decreased suicidality and self-harming behaviors, improved ability to tolerate distress, increased mindfulness and emotion regulation, and healthier relationships with others. Negative experiences included difficulty understanding DBT terminology, too broad of an age range in group therapy, and inconsistent family involvement. Clinical implications and future research directions for the use of DBT with adolescents were discussed.

Abstract Format



Borderline personality disorder; Dialectical behavior therapy; Self-harming behavior; Suicidality; Teenagers -- Mental health; Community mental health services


378 pages

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Copyright is held by author.