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  • Staff Writer

What DBT Skills Are and How They Can Help Students Thrive

Many students who are young adults struggle to control their emotions. This can be due to mental health disorders or a combination of factors. If your student struggles with emotions, that is ok. Transitioning into adulthood is challenging and it will take time for your student to control their emotions. However, through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), they can learn how to understand and accept their emotions. This can help your student to improve their mental health, self-care, and productivity. As such, it helps your student learn skills that will help them to successfully live independently.

What Is DBT?

DBT is a type of talk therapy that is used to help understand and accept difficult feelings. Depending on the program, it can include individual therapy, group therapy, skills training, or phone coaching. It is most commonly used for borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, therapists provide it for other mental health disorders as well. For example, if your student is struggling with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorders, or anxiety, it will also be helpful.

DBT Skills and How They Can Benefit Your Student

As a therapy, DBT consists of four main skills. When your student learns these four skills, their life will be improved by their ability to understand their emotions and make positive changes in their lives. Each of the skills included will uniquely benefit your student and will improve your student's health and productivity.


As a foundational skill in DBT, mindfulness can help your student in many ways. Being mindful means being fully present with what is going on now. Emotionally, this means observing feelings as they come and go. It is an intentional act that takes mental energy to continue to observe without the mind drifting away. There are two pieces to mindfulness. First, is noticing, describing, and participating in what is going on internally. The second is being mindful with focus and without judgment.

Mindfulness is a technique that is commonly used for stress reduction. Managing stress is an extremely helpful skill for your student to have, as adult life is full of stressors. When your student can manage their internal stress, they are less likely to experience the negative effects of stress.

Additionally, mindfulness helps your student to be aware of their inner life. This is very important if they are struggling with mental health disorders, trauma, or simply the stress of transitioning into adulthood. By being aware of their feelings and needs, they are more likely to be able to create healthy boundaries, have positive relationships, and live independently.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

The second pillar of DBT is interpersonal effectiveness, which is centered around relationships. While mindfulness will help your student to be more aware of their inner world, interpersonal effectiveness includes the necessary skills to build healthy relationships of all kinds. These skills include verbalizing boundaries, building new relationships, and maintaining relationships.

There are many benefits to your student learning how to communicate clearly with others. It will help them to build healthy friendships and community as an adult. However, it will also help them in their school and professional lives since there are many situations when adults need to have a conversation to clarify expectations, ask questions, or request support.

Distress Tolerance

Dealing with painful and negative emotions is hard. However, if your student struggles with mental health concerns, it can be even harder. Distress tolerance includes skills that will help your student to tolerate discomfort. Techniques like cold showers or exercise can both help your student to increase their tolerance.

By improving their distress tolerance, your student is more likely to face difficulty when it arises. This might include internal challenges or emotions like breaking up with someone. However, it also includes uncomfortable situations like asking for a raise, going to a job interview, or moving to a new city. Many parts of your student's young adult life are uncomfortable, and DBT can help give them the skills to tolerate these situations.

Regulating Emotions

Emotional regulation is a difficult skill, and if your student struggles with it, they are not alone. Regulating emotions is one of the four pillars of DBT, and it relies on the skills of mindfulness and distress tolerance. If your student struggles with their mental health, they might be controlled by their emotions. However, through DBT, they can learn how to change their emotions rather than their emotions controlling them.

Learning to regulate emotions is an important skill for living independently. While your student might not feel like going to class, they must attend classes in college and work after college. By learning techniques that help them to regulate their emotions, they are more likely to be productive as a student and adult and take the necessary steps to care for their mental and physical health, even when they don't feel like it.

Transitioning into adulthood is challenging. If your student is struggling with the transition, it is not uncommon. However, regardless of mental health issues, your student can learn skills to regulate emotions that will help them to live more independently. At Northwest College Support, we understand that living independently is very different from living at home. We offer multiple types of therapy, including DBT, that can help your student. Additionally, all of our programs are individualized to provide the care and assistance necessary for your student. To learn more about our online programs, and in-person programs in Boise, ID, or to speak with a staff member, call us today at (877) 485-2776.

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