A recently publish trail provides shows that dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is the first well-established and empirically supported treatment for reducing suicide attempts and self-harm in teenagers. Dialectical behavior therapy is an intense form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches people to improve their emotional and cognitive regulations by learning their triggers and new coping skills.
This study looked to evaluate the efficiency of DBT versus individual or group supportive therapy in reducing suicide and self-harm in adolescents. They conducted a randomized clinical trial with 173 participants aged 12-18. All of the participants have prior suicide attempts.
Participants were randomly assigned to either DBT or individual and group supportive therapy, with treatment lasting six months. Both groups had weekly group and individual psychotherapy session, therapist consultation meetings, and parent contact. The study looked at outcomes such as suicide attempts, non-suicidal self-injury, and self-harm.
The results showed there were significant advantages to dialectical behavior therapy in all primary outcomes. In the DBT participant group, 65 out of 72 participants have no suicide attempts, 41 out of 72 had no non-suicidal self-injury, and 39 out of 72 did not conduct any self-harm. Rates of self-harm continued to decrease over 1-year follow up.
The researchers concluded, “The results of this trial support the efficacy of [dialectical behavior therapy] for reducing self-harm and suicide attempts in highly suicidal self-harming adolescents. On the basis of the criteria of 2 independent trials supporting efficacy, results from support [dialectical behavior therapy] as the first well-established, empirically supported treatment for decreasing repeated suicide attempts and self-harm in youths.”
Psychiatrists have used DBT to treat self-harm before this study. But the trial shows just how effective this treatment course is. Self-harm and suicide rates in adolescence have increased in recent years, so new and effective treatment methods are needed.
If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviors or self-harm please contact us immediately. We can get you the help you need.
Since 2003, the Delray Center for Healing has provided exceptional psychiatric and therapeutic care for mental health, eating, and substance use disorders. To learn more about our philosophy and treatment approach, download our free e-book, “Psychiatry Redefined,” written by our founder and medical director, Raul J. Rodriguez, MD.