The effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy in treating multiproblem adolescents in a school setting

Alycia Carrano Dadd, Fordham University


This study assessed the effectiveness of a well-researched clinical intervention, adolescent dialectical behavior therapy (Miller, Rathus, & Linehan, 2007) as a school-based mental health intervention to improve students’ emotionality, mood, and behaviors. Eleven participants completed a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program in a public high school that consisted of group skills training, individual DBT counseling, and skills coaching to address emotional and behavioral dysregulation, impulsivity, and interpersonal and family difficulties. It was hypothesized that DBT would improve participants’ emotional stability, mood, coping skills, and decrease negative referral behaviors such as self-injury, substance use, disordered eating, oppositional behaviors, etc. Results indicated that DBT did not significantly impact students’ transient emotions as reported using a daily Likert rating system on the DBT diary card. There was improvement in the participants’ levels of depression and social stress on the Behavior Assessment System for Children – Second Edition. The most prominent effect was that students’ exhibited significantly more adaptive coping skills, particularly mindfulness skills, and they were able to tolerate distressing situations with a decreased likelihood of using negative behaviors to cope. A significant limitation was the small sample size and the lack of data completed by the participants’ parents. Overall DBT shows promise as a school-based intervention to address the needs of students with a complex clinical presentation. Additionally, this research assists in bridging the gap between clinical and school–based interventions and perpetuates the idea that school psychologists must operate as scientist-practitioners to best serve the growing mental health needs of students.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Dadd, Alycia Carrano, "The effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy in treating multiproblem adolescents in a school setting" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10000744.