Suicide is a leading cause of death for adolescents in the United States. Widespread implementation of evidence-based practices for this population remains challenging due to resource shortages and system barriers. Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Adolescents (DBT-A) has robust research support, with positive clinical outcomes when implemented with fidelity. At the same time, implementation requires individual therapy with trained clinicians, a resource which may not be available at the level required in some communities. The current study uses theoretical frameworks from adult implementations of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) where treatment was provided in a DBT Skills Training format without weekly individual therapy to examine skills training for adolescent clients with suicidal behaviors and is the first published study regarding feasibility of skills training for this population.
Adolescents and their families were offered DBT Skills Training while on the waitlist for DBT-A. Of the 125 families referred, 48 chose DBT Skills Training and 77 opted to wait for DBT-A, creating a natural quasi-experimental design useful in exploring differences between DBT-Skills Training and DBT-A.
There were no significant differences between the two groups at baseline. Rates of treatment completion were similar between the two groups.
Results from the current study demonstrate similar rates of treatment drop-out and treatment completion between DBT Skills Training and DBT-A, suggesting DBT Skills Training without individual therapy for adolescents is feasible and warrants additional research.