Objective: To evaluate the feasibility of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) implementation in a general child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit and to provide preliminary effectiveness data on DBT versus treatment as usual (TAU).
Method: Sixty-two adolescents with suicide attempts or suicidal ideation were admitted to one of two psychiatric inpatient units. One unit used a DBT protocol and the other unit relied on TAU. Assessments of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, hopelessness, parasuicidal behavior, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and adherence to follow-up recommendations were conducted before and after treatment and at 1-year follow-up for both groups. In addition, behavioral incidents on the units were evaluated.
Results: DBT significantly reduced behavioral incidents during admission when compared with TAU. Both groups demonstrated highly significant reductions in parasuicidal behavior, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation at 1 year.
Conclusions: DBT can be effectively implemented in acute-care child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient units. The promising results from this pilot study suggest that further evaluation of DBT for adolescent inpatients appears warranted.