Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to Enhance Emotional Regulation and Resilience Among Street-involved Youth
This book chapter describes dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), an evidence-based mental health intervention that shows promise in addressing the dramatic emotional needs of youth who are homeless. Mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and self-harm often interfere with the capacity of street-involved youth to engage in the full spectrum of health and social services intended to support them in exiting the street. While literature evaluating the effectiveness of DBT for homeless youth is limited, the treatment has demonstrated the capacity to decrease self-harm and suicidality, and to improve mental health indicators such as depression and anxiety. The chapter provides an overview of DBT, including individual therapy and group skills training, as well as crisis support and consultation team meetings. It then discusses adaptations made to the intervention to better meet the needs of street-involved youth. It also describes a study implementing DBT with street-involved youth across two agencies that provide services to this population. Results indicate that participants in the DBT intervention experienced a reduction in mental health distress that was maintained at four and 10 weeks post-intervention. The chapter concludes with a discussion of important considerations in implementing DBT in community settings.