Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT-C) for Children with ADHD & Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

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Almost all individuals, including children, who are diagnosed with ADHD also experience symptoms of rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD). There are many different medications and therapeutic systems that may help kids with ADHD-RSD. However, one of the most effective treatments is a modality called dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT-C. The “C” in this case stands for “children.” 

Got little ones at home dealing with massive tantrums? Traditional “play” therapy might not be enough, especially if unique challenges like RSD-ADHD are part of the equation. When children around the age of 7 don’t respond to typical talk therapy for kids, it’s time to explore other options. Enter DBT-C, a therapy tailored to their needs, which can be a real game-changer.

Parents, if you’re searching for the proper support for your children, DBT-C could be a lifeline. Unlike traditional approaches, DBT-C offers a hands-on, kid-friendly way to build coping strategies and manage those overwhelming emotions. It’s a promising approach worth considering, especially for those looking to understand and navigate individual challenges with empathy and effectiveness.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dealing with complex emotions in children can be a real challenge, and sometimes traditional therapies like play therapy or even standard CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) fall short. That’s where DBT-C comes into play. Part of the CBT family, DBT was initially designed for adults with intricate diagnoses like borderline personality disorder (BPD). But in the last decade, therapists discovered a modified version, DBT-C, could be a game-changer for children.

What makes DBT-C stand out? It’s specially crafted for children who might be hard to treat with other therapeutic methods. DBT-C equips kids with specific skills to manage those big emotions. This kind often comes hand-in-hand with rejection-sensitive dysphoria. Suppose you’re a parent grappling with these challenges. In that case, DBT-C might be the resource you’ve been looking for to help your child handle their emotions healthily and constructively.

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Why Aren’t CBT and Play Therapy as Effective for Some Kids with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria? 

CBT is often about teaching people how to change their thoughts and actions related to emotional triggers. It’s a way of relearning how to think to feel better about something that might trouble them. But what if the challenge is more significant, like those with rejection-sensitive dysphoria, who frequently face extreme emotional reactions? Reasoning is no small feat when dealing with outsized emotional outbursts. The “fight, flight, or freeze” response with RSD almost puts rational thinking out of reach.

  • Play Therapy: Great for getting children, especially younger ones, to discuss difficult subjects like divorce or family loss with a trained play therapist. Find out more about play therapy.
  • Safety in Play Therapy: Focuses on processing emotions in a safe and controlled environment.
  • Limited in Teaching Coping Skills: Play therapy may not be effective in teaching children how to cope with their emotions.
  • DBT-C as an Alternative: DBT-C addresses the gaps in play therapy, offering a tailored approach to manage intense emotions.
  • Relevance for Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria: Particularly useful for children with rejection-sensitive dysphoria, DBT-C provides the tools to handle big emotions more effectively.
  • Worth Exploring for Parents: If you’re looking to equip your children with coping strategies, DBT-C might be the right avenue to explore.
Read More: 5 Signs of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

What Makes DBT-C Helpful for Kids with ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

Dialectical behavior therapy is designed specifically to:

  1. Allow kids with big emotions to feel seen and heard by acknowledging the real pain and discomfort they feel when confronted with a “trigger”
  2. Teach them that they are safe and should not feel ashamed for having the big feelings
  3. Empower them with the DBT-C skills needed to identify triggers for big emotions and counter them with healthier learned options before the feelings become unmanageable

This makes DBT-C different and often better than other therapies for kids with ADHD-RSD because it teaches them a set of specific skills to help them cope with their huge emotions. They can then use these skills to interact with others, and their environments, in more rational, less emotional ways. Eventually DBT-C helps kids to consistently manage their feelings positively and productively, even in harder-to-treat cases, like those involving ADHD-RSD. 

Who Practices DBT-C?

Finding the right therapy for children’s emotional challenges can be a winding path. DBT-C is practiced by various mental health specialists, including Masters of Social Work (MSWs), licensed professional counselors (LPCs), and clinical psychologists. While DBT-C specialists might be fewer compared to those in CBT or play therapy, many CBT practitioners can still teach DBT-C skills.

Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy and play therapy might not always hit the mark for children struggling with mood disorders or challenges like RSD-ADHD. DBT-C could be a better fit, especially for those facing difficulties with emotional regulation or focusing on abstract concepts. It’s not just another option; it’s a path that has proved transformative for many families. Exploring DBT-C might be well worth the effort if these challenges sound familiar.

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Wrapping Up

Suppose you’re a parent navigating the stormy waters of emotional challenges with your children, particularly those related to ADHD-RSD. In that case, DBT-C might be the beacon you need. Offering a tailored approach that goes beyond traditional therapies, DBT-C stands out in equipping kids with the skills to manage big emotions effectively. With an understanding of their unique needs, DBT-C doesn’t just help kids cope; it empowers them to thrive. For those seeking a transformative path to emotional well-being, DBT-C is the key.

FAQs About DBT-C

What is DBT-C, and how is it different from traditional therapy?
DBT-C, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Children, is a modified therapy approach that equips kids with specific skills to manage big emotions, especially those associated with rejection-sensitive dysphoria. It's more tailored to children's needs than standard therapies like CBT or play therapy.
Who can benefit from DBT-C?
Children struggling with intense emotions, ADHD-RSD, or difficulties in handling emotions that don't respond to traditional therapies can particularly benefit from DBT-C.
Who practices DBT-C?
Mental health specialists like Masters of Social Work (MSWs), licensed professional counselors (LPCs), and clinical psychologists often practice DBT-C, though it may also be offered by some CBT practitioners.
How does DBT-C help children with rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD)?
DBT-C specifically targets the big emotions often experienced with RSD, providing children with the tools and skills to handle these emotions in healthy, constructive ways.
Is DBT-C a good option for parents to explore for their children?
DBT-C is a promising approach for parents looking to help their children with emotional regulation, especially when dealing with conditions like ADHD-RSD. It's a hands-on, kid-friendly therapy well worth considering.

This post was originally published on 02/25/2022. It was updated on 08/06/2023.

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