‘Parenting a Teen Who Has Intense Emotions’ discusses DBT skills for behavioral health challenges


While being a teen and dealing with the roller coaster that is puberty is rough, parenting a teen is a whole other ball game. This is made more complicated when dealing with a teen whose emotions go far beyond the norm for this hormonal stage of life. Teens with intense emotions may be struggling with any number of issues, causing them to lash out at others and engage in risky behavior. So what are parents to do to when their child is acting out? How do they handle the situation best to help keep themselves and their teen sane?

Pat Harvey and Britt H. Rathbone, both teen mental health experts, attempt to provide answers to this question in their book “Parenting a Teen Who Has Intense Emotions: DBT Skills to Help Your Teen Navigate Emotional and Behavioral Challenges.” As one can guess from the title, their solution comes in the form of DBT, or dialectical behavioral therapy.

What is DBT?

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy originally created to help treat individuals with borderline personality disorder. Today, however, DBT is used to help many people struggling with different mental health disorder ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to depression and more. This form of therapy emphasizes the following skills:

  • Mindfulness – The practice of being fully present and aware during the current moment
  • Distress tolerance – Teaching the patient how to tolerate emotions in difficult situations
  • Interpersonal effectiveness – The ability to ask for what one wants or say no without sacrificing self-respect or interpersonal relationships
  • Emotional regulation – The ability to change emotions

How does DBT help us?

In this book, Harvey and Rathbone seek to help both teens and parents combat the teen’s extreme emotions. The skills outlined in the book provide teens with a way to gauge their emotions and properly respond to them. Simultaneously, parents can learn how to help their teens with these emotions in an understanding and constructive way.

Previous readers, both professionals and parents, provide positive praise for the book. Lane Pederson, Psy.D., praises the book for “integrating validation and practical skills and guidance” and describes it as a “must-read for parents … as well as therapists.”  Parent Susan O. talks about her experience using these skills for her teen: “The first time I used the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skill of validation and validated her distress, my daughter visibly calmed. We were able to communicate and problem solve in an entirely new way. The DBT skills have helped me be supportive, yet able to maintain effective boundaries and limits.”

Whether parental or professional, interest in this book and the skills it teaches is justified.


About the book authors

Pat Harvey, co-author with Rathbone, has more than 30 years of experience under her belt working with families and coaching parents and families of youths who have emotional dysregulation using DBT. In addition to this, Harvey also helps with training and workshops for mental health professionals on DBT and parent/family interventions.

Britt H. Rathbone has decades of experience working with adolescents and families. He currently provides mental health help for adolescents and families in the Washington D.C. area. Rathbone also teachs graduate students and trains therapists while maintaining a successful clinical practice.

About this author

Brianna Gibbons is a Web Producer. She graduated from Westmont College with a Bachelors of Arts in English. She currently works hard to organize and publish the content for the blogs and websites. In her spare time, Brianna loves to read, write, knit, travel, dote on her pets and randomly go on small adventures with friends.

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