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Keywords:

  • Children;
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy;
  • self-harm;
  • self-injury;
  • suicide

Background:  Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) has been used to treat adults and adolescents with suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury. This article describes initial progress in modifying DBT for affected pre-adolescent children.

Method:  Eleven children from regular education classes participated in a 6-week pilot DBT skills training program for children. Self-report measures of children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties, social skills and coping strategies were administered at pre- and post-intervention, and indicated that the children had mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation at baseline.

Results:  Subjects were able to understand and utilise DBT skills for children and believed that the skills were important and engaging. Parents also regarded skills as important, child friendly, comprehensible and beneficial. At post-treatment, children reported a significant increase in adaptive coping skills and significant decreases in depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation and problematic internalising behaviours.

Conclusions:  These promising preliminary results suggest that continued development of DBT for children with more severe clinical impairment is warranted. Progress on adapting child individual DBT and developing a caregiver training component in behavioural modification and validation techniques is discussed.