In the mental health care field the majority of focus (understandably) has been on what can be referred to as reactive services. It is a system that steps in to serve those in distress and aims to aid in healing after the suffering has ensued. While at times this is appropriate and necessary, clinicians and researchers are exploring ways in which treatment can take a more preventative approach.
Within the realm of DBT treatment one way in which this idea is taking hold is through the DBT STEPS-A (Skills Training for Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents) program. This is a school-based program that aims to be a frontline approach that coaches students to be effective when coping with stressful life events and emotion dysregulation as well as developing and strengthening meaningful relationships. This program’s mission is to teach adolescents the skills necessary to cope with life without the development of problematic behaviors (e.g., substance use, self-harm, etc.). DBT STEPS-A works by clinicians training general education teachers as well as school personnel on a 30-week curriculum to be taught to students in the classroom setting. This curriculum goes through the four modules (mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) that are taught to clients receiving comprehensive DBT treatment, giving students those skills they can utilize in various life situations. This approach has promise as school-based social and emotional learning programs have shown effectiveness in impacting students’ well-being as well as having the ability to break certain barriers that have prevented adolescents from receiving such services (socio-economic, limited access due to geographics, social stigma, etc.).
CBM continuously explores new ways to provide services in an inclusive manner and has recently partnered with a local school district, working to launch DBT STEPS-A within the district’s middle school. The clinicians at CBM heading this endeavor also had the pleasure to present on DBT STEPS-A at the 2021 Wisconsin School Counselor Association’s Annual Conference. The clinic hopes to help the community at large in integrating this program in more schools in the near future.